Set in 1972 Bucharest, writer-director Alexandru Belc’s elegant feature debut Metronom centres around rebellious 17-year-old Ana (newcomer Mara Bugaran), who’s devastated by the news that her boyfriend Sorin (Serban Lazarovici) is leaving for Germany to escape from the authoritative communist government that holds their Romania in an iron grip. The lovers and their group of friends dream of freedom as they listen avidly to records by Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. Their passion burns so brightly that at a party they decide to write a letter to their favourite (and banned) radio station – the titular Metronom – to express their appreciation for what they do.
However, their party comes to an end when the secret police somehow discover the letter and accuse the children of betraying their country. Ana refuses to cooperate, her future subsequently hanging in the balance.
From the opening scene, in which Ana and Sorin walk arm in arm across a concrete square (lens flare from the dwindling sun acting as an ethereal spotlight for their journey), Metronom is a sublimely good-looking film. Each sequence is shot with care and purpose that subsequently creates an intimacy for viewers to latch onto Ana’s plight. The party scenes where the camera lingers on the teenager dancing in brightly coloured clothes to psychedelic 70s rock epitomises the film’s tone. For these brief moments the kids are free from the oppressive laws that control the rest of their lives. The filmmaker uses a similar approach when it comes to the central romance; likewise, the camera lingers on the intimate moments the pair share, as if there was nothing else in the world. While one extensively prolonged sex scene verges on the point of being uncomfortable, it’s meaning isn’t lost on viewers.
Any actual drama doesn’t come into play until the secret police kick down the door, whereupon it plays out with similar slow-burn pacing. The threat of serious jail time is the catalyst for conflict, yet Metronom is never really about Ana’s fight against authority. Belc’s film is about young love’s struggle to flourish in an oppressive environment. It’s a meditative reflection on the necessity of youth and expression. And though the momentum occasionally comes to a complete standstill, Metronom remains an exquisite piece of cinema and a provocative spin on a coming-of-age romance.
Metronom does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Metronom here: