The World Is Mine (2015)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @tiffromania.
“This one’s for Ioana and Oana” goes the CRBL song which energetically opens The World Is Mine, an ironically-titled treat that speaks just as directly to the young women of Romania as that thumping track it uses time and again. It’s not just for an excess of aquatic imagery that debut director Nicolae Constantin Tănase manages to make something of a splash here: bookending his drama with parallel shots of teen protagonist Larisa gazing out over the grey sprawl of her unnamed seaside city, he has made a movie that determinedly holds the country as a whole accountable for the unappetising prospects that await this girl and all she stands for as an image of the female future.
…[director Nicolae Constantin Tănase]has made a movie that determinedly holds the country as a whole accountable for the unappetising prospects that await this girl and all she stands for as an image of the female future.
If an overzealous penchant for pairing slow-mo solemnity with submerged dream sequences might point toward this director’s relative inexperience, their aggressive overuse at least also evidences a well-held worry for the integral issues to which his earnest effort speaks. It’s not only his pop-soundtracked party sequences that might bring Girlhood to mind: like Sciamma, he has crafted a world where aural empowerment affords brief reprieve from dismal reality. That a smattering of young women amidst the home crowd here could be heard quietly singing along is proof foremost, of course, of the song’s popularity, but it’s a fittingly apt image too for the kind of connection the film, with any justice, ought to find.
It is, in the end, a canny take on gender roles and the social structure that keeps them rigidly in place: from background cultural cues and typical school clique animosities, the film finds root causes for the problems it points out everywhere it looks. Tănase, for his part, exposes these admirably; he cut his teeth in shorts, and it’s clear he’s conceived for himself an impressive aesthetic language. From well-deployed mirror shots that playfully prime our perspective to a tasteful visual revelation of one of the plot’s more sensitive subjects, he has to hand all the necessary craft to capably mount the contextual backdrop against which his story stands out so well.
Plaudits aplenty ought also to go to Ana-Maria Guran, whose work here in rendering Larise a compelling character goes far beyond the initial attachment abundant on the page. She is a rebel whose cause can’t be doubted: it’s a similarly sobering scenario to the Sciamma film to see her consistently caught between a rock and a hard place, and constantly compelled to do anything to find the agency her circumstances deny her. They are chillingly mounted, if at times perhaps prone to caricature: as much as the sexual threat her domineering stepfather represents carries all the stark weight it should, he’s so unwaveringly one-note a presence as to be barely a step up above set dressing.
It is, in the end, a canny take on gender roles and the social structure that keeps them rigidly in place…
But such contrived characters carry the burden of Tănase’s calling to elucidate sombre truths; The World Is Mine may take no shortage of wearisome narrative and visual licence en route to expression, but that’s only because of such insistent intent on getting that message across. Few are likely to miss it, and that may be for the best: this is a film desperately determined to give voice to Larisa’s life and the limitations socially imposed thereupon. “I have bad dreams at night,” she confides in the whispered voiceover that opens and closes the film. For us, as much as for her, The World Is Mine is a well-meaning wake-up call.
The World Is Mine is a well-meaning wake-up call.