Editor’s Notes: One Floor Below opens in Toronto today at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
One Floor Below challenges its audience to see something greater than what’s blatantly presented; the subtle expressions of the actors, the hidden guilt behind the characters. . .
One Floor Below has a deceptively simplistic plot synopsis: a man witnesses domestic abuse, that eventually results in a murder, and throughout the film, must live with the guilt of not being able to tell the authorities about what he heard. But, as mentioned earlier, the true expertise of Muntean comes from his attention to detail, and his directorial abilities in every sense of the phrase. One of the primary jobs of the director is to direct the actors, and Muntean seems to understand that far better than most North American directors, as he drives his actors to tap into the hidden emotions of the characters. It seems that he doesn’t necessarily or solely direct his actors towards the characters; instead, it seems as if Muntean directs his actors towards becoming these characters, through and through. Perhaps it’s the lack of big-name celebrities in foreign films, but characters often seem more refined, and the performances, more natural. Teodor Corban, whose only been in a select amount of films, is completely convincing of his role throughout the film, and is perhaps the best part about it, thanks to the talented direction of Muntean.
Teodor Corban, whose only been in a select amount of films, is completely convincing of his role throughout the film, and is perhaps the best part about it, thanks to the talented direction of Muntean.
The biggest problem is One Floor Below, characteristic of other foreign films as well, is its tedious pacing. Slow pacing can be appreciated if it’s done to achieve the right effect, but it seems One Floor Below is lacking that. Instead at times throughout the film, it feels empty – characters just standing around for the sake of standing, and looking for the sake of looking. Though Muntean does a good job of providing intricate and seemingly unimportant details for the viewer to decipher, there are some seems that do, in their nature, seem unimportant. Sitting at only 93 minutes, especially throughout the second act of the film, One Floor Below is disappointingly flat in the content it provides to its audience. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting, just that in the grand scheme of the film, portions of it seem unnecessary.
In 2007, David Volach, and Israeli director, released an overlooked film called My Father, My Lord. In a lot of ways, One Floor Below’s atmosphere reminded me of Volach’s film. But what it couldn’t achieve was the constant pacing that was established throughout that film, as it sat at around only 72 minutes. One Floor Below would’ve benefited from a shorter cut – one which could’ve condensed the raw emotion and character study into a shorter runtime that would make it easier for the audience to swallow. Needless to say, though, besides from the pacing issues, One Floor Below has a lot going for it. Muntean truly gets the best work out of his actors, who immerse themselves wholeheartedly into their characters; often when watching the film, the lines between reality and fiction are blurred because of acting. Muntean manages to take a seemingly simplistic story and craft it into something that’s challenging, but ultimately rewarding. In some ways, One Floor Below may share characteristics with other foreign films, but in retrospect, it’s very much its own film; one which Radu Muntean should be very proud of making.
In some ways, One Floor Below may share characteristics with other foreign films, but in retrospect, it’s very much its own film; one which Ruda Muntean should be very proud of making.