17-10-2019

Valan and the Damsel in Distress

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Valan’s pulpy policier world slowly turns exploitative towards its characters while following the formulaic story of Péter, a strong-willed cop caught in a difficult sex trafficking investigation in Brasov.

A series of flashbacks in a typical school in Romania during the Revolution in 1989 announce that Péter’s sister has disappeared in the chaos of the insurgencies. Indelicately, Bagota employs these traumatic memories of losing a sibling to make sure the viewer clearly understands Péter’s ensuing motives of getting involved in cases of kidnapping and human trafficking – a way to cope with his sister’s abduction and potential death by trying to save other women’s lives. While Péter’s uncle, János (András Hatházi), owns a suicide hotline through which he helps numerous women, the director only chooses to display the clichés of such an environment – showing for instance János emphatically answering the phone while grabbing a bible and praying for the unfortunate damsel in distress. Péter’s aunt, Kati, suffers from Alzheimer’s  but in the film’s ultra-structured convention, her character doesn’t have a specific role, besides adding a sprinkle of unnecessary drama. The way Valan oversimplifies issues like Alzheimer’s disease and suicidal tendencies is without a doubt problematic.

Ultimately, Valan is very reminiscent of Porumboiu’s La Gomera – another exploitation policier film with, fortunately, more self-aware ambitions – which actually pokes fun at its own genre and yet keeps a lid on its ironic perspective. While La Gomera seems to never take itself too seriously, Valan expects viewers to accept a story of women in constant need of saving, be it by the alpha male cop or the villain himself.

Last modified on 18-10-2019