Un Etaj Mai Jos (One Floor Below)
We all have neighbours we don’t know very well; we might exchange the odd greeting or comment on the weather, but that’s usually the extent of it. Now, what if said neighbour were to die suddenly under suspicious circumstances? What if you knew who had murdered them? And what if the proverbial cherry on top was that both killer and victim lived in your building?
After overhearing a domestic dispute in the downstairs apartment, Sandu Patrascu (Teodor Corban) runs into one of the neighbours, Vali Dama (Iulian Postelnicu), in the stairwell. It later transpires that the young woman downstairs has been found dead. Sandu feigns ignorance when a detective comes by to ask questions, and holds his tongue when Vali, the supposed killer, approaches Sandu to ask a favour. There is something Hitchcockian in the odd dilemma faced by the protagonist. Sandu’s reticence in exposing the killer is at once utterly mystifying and perfectly reasonable: he wishes to protect his family.
Sandu reluctantly agrees to help Vali, handling his business as he would that of any other client. However, the charade does not last long; the crossfire of intense and knowing gazes the two exchange eventually reaches its climax in a confrontation, and a surprising final outcome.
Silence seems to be a running theme in the telling of this story, as the film has practically no soundtrack. There are no musical warning shots, no quivering violins or eerie harmonies to induce the usual frenzied nail-biting and hysterical squeals. This is a murder mystery of the most unnerving and terrifying kind; a plausible one. It unfolds quietly, in broad daylight.
Removing the musical barrier between fiction and reality forces the viewer to identify with the story in a far more immediate way. Radu Muntean’s subtle and riveting Romanian drama Un Etaj Mai Jos (One Floor Below) leaves its audience with the question: how well do you really know your neighbours?
Un Etaj Mai Jos (One Floor Below) does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Un Etaj Mai Jos (One Floor Below) here: