This is Not a Film You Are Watching. Corneliu Porumboiu’s Non-Cinematic Stylistics and the Visceral-Conceptual Cinema

Doru POP


The hypothesis of this paper is that Corneliu Porumboiu, one of the most important Romanian filmmaker, who was extremely successful in international festivals, yet not so popular in public screenings at home, is looking for newer ways of cinematic expression, which go beyond box-office relevance. The second premise is that the Romanian contemporary filmmakers are moving towards a type of realism that is no longer connected with the philosophy of the New Wave or the Neorealist tradition, while entering into what can be called a non-cinematic cinema. Their search for a new cinematic expressions is taking them to a manifestation of cinema that does not take place onto the screen, but outside of the visible, beyond the immediate perception. This approach, identifiable in many other Romanian contemporary films (such is the case with Cristian Mungiu), takes in Corneliu Porumboiu’s movies a conceptualized turn, a transformation of filmmaking itself. This is why the current discussion will be centered around the most recent three films of the Romanian director: Când se lasă seara peste București sau Metabolism (2013), Al doilea joc (2014) and Comoara (2015). The analysis of his most recent three films considers them as a coherent transformation of his artistic expression, which leads to a more personal cinema form, a visceral cinema. This paper is part of a more complex analysis of the process of de-cinematization and de-dramatization, which is taking place in recent Romanian cinema. As it is explicit in an experimental movie like Al doilea joc, we are witnessing a purposeful de-dramatization of cinema, which is part of a process of emptying the cinematic. The apparent emptiness in these films becomes an important element once interpreted as part of a search for an enigmatic sensation, for the palpable and the sensorial in a media that is only visual. As Roland Barthes used the term, we can understand Porumboiu’s search as a quest for “visceral signs”, for a hidden dimension of significations within cinematic representation. This term describes a type of cinema that supersedes the sensorial and the emotional (inherent to the cinematic) and circumscribes a profound search for the invisible nature of representations in cinema.

Keywords: Corneliu Porumboiu, non-cinematic, extra-cinematic, de-cinematization, conceptual cinema, visceral cinema

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.20.6