In Alba County, there is a commune called Întregalde. Based in the hills of Transylvania, the eleven-village consumed area is known for its plethora of shrouded trees, thick fog, and rainy weather. It’s a place where only three types of people meet. The elders of the community (who have previously worked and lived in the commune for decades), domestic families determined on making a living with manual labour, and entitled foreigners. Outside of its stunning vistas, the hushed atmosphere evokes a sense of melancholy and dread; a perfect location for a horror film. In some regards, the aptly titled Întregalde is exactly that. A film that employs Murphy’s Law to full effect, the relentless and mentally tasking progression of events featured in Radu Muntean’s latest comes at an alluring cost.
Întregalde is ultimately a tolerance test, a film in which Muntean directly puts the viewer into the shoes of three entitled humanitarian aid workers. One of the members is selfish, while the other is ignorant. Only one of the affiliates of the trio actually exemplifies some compassion, in her journey of self-reflection. In their quest of unexpected quarrels —taken place over a brief time span of 24 hours— Muntean dissects each of the core characters’ motivations and growing discontent, with a compelling commentary all about social performativity. For example, the film frequently pays attention to dialogue and specific narrative beats in regards to the trio’s dismissive attitude towards their clients; brief moments in which Muntean keeps his camera static and rolling, to highlight scenes in which core characters banter behind the backs of the commonwealth.
It’s a simple film, riddled with effective directional cues. The long takes offer naturalistic dialogue and engrossing chitchat; further punctuating the radiating entitlement of the three core characters. It also features a narrative that can be best described as a new kind of moral tale — perfectly suited for the influencer generation. Muntean’s slow moving nightmare is riveting, as the film’s flat-colours and dynamic visuals provide contrast against the muddy roads and stained gravel. It’s the complete opposite of a tourist commercial, providing a brutally honest depiction of the natural hardships found within the Întregalde community.
Admittedly, Muntean does get carried away with various moments of narrative filler. The opening act of Întregalde could have been condensed, to the point where the inciting conflict should have opened the film. The setup and build up is largely unearned in contrast with its other moments of essential conflict, with the lackadaisical focus on each of the characters becoming a distraction against the film’s thematic backdrop. But even with its poor first act, the remainder of Muntean’s holiday-season set drama provides mesmeric set-pieces and a concise moral. It’s an adequate film dedicated for those frost-bitten by the clutch of social-media pandering; a remedy well suited for those seeking for clarity between the blurred lines of generosity & performativity.