Launched in international world premiere in 2009 at Sarajevo, awarded at Transilvania International Film Festival 2010, today comes on the Romanian screens a masterpiece. Wednesaday I’ve been at the press release organized by Tabu. Congratulations to Cristina Bazavan [ro, blog] for the great PR work she’s doing – Tabu Oscar Party [ro, html] and also this special meeting between the bloggers and the crew. She didn’t knew it, but wednesday I was celebrating my birthday [en, blog] . Excellent gift. Perfect way to end such a day.
I will briefly make a refference on the film itself and then I will write about what I liked the most, from a personal development & psychological perspective. This article is also the fourth in of a series of articles entitled “The Art of Respecting Others” [en, blog] on Analytic Vision, which is intended to make you take a deep look on personality, time and communication.
As Mihnea wrote [ro, html], the movie doesn’t reach its potential climax. The end is predictable and happy, defusing some of the tension built by the screenwriters. As a matter of fact, Razvan Radulescu and Melissa de Raaf said they considered the ending to be dramatic enough. I am wondering what if Michael Haneke [en, wiki] would have directed this script… Besides that, it’s simply brilliant. It is the best Romanian tragicomedy since Lucian Pintilie’s Terminus Paradis [en, html].
Also, it brings up front that kind of specific Romanian genius… of transforming something which in essence does not hold value, into a piece of art. I quoted Marcel Iureş in the “Website Story” Chronicle [en, blog]. The lenghts of Romanian films cannot be excused by the pretext: “We’re trying to make it more realistic”, or financed by the contested CNC [ro, html]. Cinema is an art, the cinematography is a language, the footage is expensive and nobody really gets a dime back from a Romanian film. That’s why it’s so rare that films like Corneliu Porumboiu’s A fost sau n-a fost [en, html] or even better Poliţist, adjectiv [ro, html] find their way into transphorming a disadvantage into a stylistic landmark of cinematographic expression for a masterpiece. It is also the fortunate case for “Felicia, first of all” [en, html].
“Felicia, first of all” is a film in details. Small details which matter, patiently painting the framework of the characters. The story is centered on very well defined characters, it’s actually a brilliant example of almost unknown actors bringing force to a well-written screenplay with strong characters. It is even better, for though it is a movie with a lot of words in it, every line holds cinematic relevance. There is nothing to cut out. Everything is in its place. It holds to the essence of the deepest Romanian expression of time perception, better than any other of the hundreds of Romanian movie I have ever seen. Actually, I would even recommend it for studying Romanians’ perception on time [ro, blog].
You can actually find a lot of movies in this one. There are so many essential and complex truths underlined that the authors should be commended for delivering such a brilliant story so simple, so relevant, witheout consulting a psychologist.
“Felicia, first of all” is a film about Romanian lack of emotional intelligence. About dramatic triangles. About how people waste other people’s patience, nerves, minutes, hours, years and ultimately… lives. The final confrontation between Felicia and her mother holds the key to explaining the deep hurt that many of today’s 20 years old – 30 years old people face. As Răzvan Rădulescu said, this is the kind of discussion repeating itself, again, and again, without ever solving anything. All the comedy has in the background the drama of a woman confronted with the abyss of communication between her and her mother. The truth Felicia is avoiding to face is that her mother will never understand her. Her parents are not mentally sane, they are merely people who have manifested their will to procreate. Extended to a nation, the communication barriers get monstrous proportions (more of a reason for which if you’re a Romanian, this film is a “must”). Of course, in the film, the discrepancies are neat, diminished, sometimes funny. But the real question that you ask yourself is: “how much was my mother like this character?”, which invites to a moment of silence.
Of course, you could say, the script depicts purely, bluntly, Romanian stupidity. It’s not like you haven’t seen it before. You know it’s there. Still. It does it brilliantly, with art, intelligence and humor. I haven’t laughed in my life at a Romanian movie as I did at “Felicia, first of all”. Seen on the screen, things look more distant: you wouldn’t fully recognize yourself there. There is a small number of films which have the power to catch so much in so little.
It is a movie about how Romanians waste time. It is even below that mundane, insipid, small-level thinking Mircea Eliade was criticising in his essay “Many Forms of Dissipating Time” [ro, pdf] from the ’30s lectures. This is the perfect story of how to waste 8 hours in a day, as opposed to gaining them [en,blog]. As many other things, like government, it is an ideal recommendation like: “if you want to have success, just look at the Romanians and do exactly the opposite”.
Instead of packing beforehand, Felicia leaves this task for completion in the morning of her leaving, therefore keeping an open window for error, wasting time talking with her mother about towels and teacups. Then, she talks on the phone to her sister, without expressing fermness in negotiation. Felicia seems to have forgotten that everything can be changed and you can’t really count on anyone in Romania even for a lift to the airport, you have to have a second plan.
The cat with the broken leg (I won’t say where the cat broke her leg, it’s too brilliant) really takes up the cherry off the top of the cake for the apartment developing climax.
Second of all, Felicia being “helped” by her mother to get to the airport is another disastrous idea for the character. Of course, she couldn’t have figured her parents would have contributed so much to her being late… but not only that, as we figure out in the end, Felicia was simply waiting to get away from her parents, psychologically tensed. Instead of doing something useful during the taxi ride like read a good book, she wastes it by talking nonsense with her mother.
Then, it could have been foreseen that the traffic would be jammed. Instead of letting her parents phone for a cab, she ought to have called the taxi herself, then stop arguing with her mother in a very specific Romanian style about who pays for the cab.
Judging the time based on an unset clock, coming to check-in with only half an hour before and not showing any hurry is simply stupid. It’s been a real tour de force for Ozana Oancea to credibly assess and show such an “in time” [ro, blog] approach for her character.
The things that get the movie started are simply a series of events which in the end underline a more challenging issue, the lack of time and task planning. Felicia’s failing to plan truly becomes her planning to fail. How much is her fault and how much her parents’ ?
In the end, it is about a mother smothering her child’s time out of her life. It is about coming to an age where you ask yourself how happy are you about your life, concluding the same patterns which make the life of her parents insipid and miserable also affect her. Felicia doesn’t find the strength of accepting the truth and making a change in her behavior. She does not know how to accept her parents and still love them, how not to be upset for who they chose to become, in opposition to a (seemingly) saner occidental culture. From this standpoint, the final confrontation between Felicia and her mother holds the therapeutic value of the words that many Romanian children would like to say to many Romanian mothers, but never have the guts to.”Felicia, before all” expresses Felicia’s dramatic need to get herself into the first place, to be more assertive, to learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. For all the things that she dares to express in the end, “Felicia, first of all” is THE ROMANIAN MOVIE TO SEE FOR THERAPEUTICAL PURPOSES. It is a movie that might change your life, by bringing more clarity and detachement from all that made you suffer. It brings the problems to their roots, in the family.
Still, the character’s claim that “it’s better to get an abortion than to bring a child into the world and then tormenting him or her” is an affirmation made at anger, against the character herself. Actually, Felicia herself is the proof of succeeding against all odds to have a more sane perspective. She is a survivor. She is living proof some therapy CAN make a difference. Not the whole difference, but enough that she could recognize and face her issues. Therefore, the movie itself, as it portraits the characters, argues that it IS better to give the children the chance to grow and develop, even sometimes the parents are the first ones to traumatize the child, without even realizing it.
*****END OF SPOILER ALERT*****
Another very appealing issue is the Romanian went to a foreign country, visiting the relatives. As Dan Diaconescu said in the interview from “Kapitalism: our improved formula” [en, html], most of the Romanians who wanted to accomplish something got out of Romania.The question in the end of the movie, began as a joke: “what would you do different, if you were to start your life over?” Is the one which actually haunts Felicia all around the movie. It is the question she avoids putting to herself.
Without emphasizing it, the script also underlies and masterfully explains the drama of the Romanian with the soul in two countries, never gaining an emotional stability from a clear identity, never making peace with the past. Still, Felicia does not come to Romania having any illusions of changing something for the better, but she IS choosing Romania over other vacations destinations. She simply comes to visit her relatives, actually never getting herself psychologically separated from that part of her identity. Actually, coming back to Romania, she visits a part of her soul, but all she’s feeling is emptiness. The bitter emptiness and sorrow for the abyss of communication between her and her parents. The non-existence of a spiritual deeper connection, for the real truth she’s been avoiding is her parents are dead inside.
The tragedy of Felicia is not getting to put her past behind her, as she lives it again and again. And, from an NLP perspective, it’s no wonder, for she obviously vizualizes her timeline as being straight through her. If Felicia would have a “meta-time” perspective, she could have a clear dettached perspective in front of her eyes, witheout gettin herself involved, and proactively managing her time.If you wish to read more on timeline perspectives or check some videos from the International Psychology Fair in 2008, please access this resource list [ro, blog].
As I started analyzing it from the personal development (time management, NLP) standpoint, I have to mention “Felicia, first of all” is the kind of movie to be watched and analyzed also from the perspective of the Transactional Analysis “please people” driver – if you’re not familiar with the topic, please read here [ro, php] and here [ro, php] and you can do the test for yourself here [ro, doc].
Felicia’s greatest problem is her psychological need to please others. To be nice, although she is challenged every moment by the idiocy of her parents, especially her mother. In this communication inertia, the expectation of any truly authentic communication is an illusion. That’s why, in the end, she’s telling her mother without any softness everything she hasn’t told her in 40 years. Still, paying careful attention to Felicia’s manner of expressing her emotions, anyone can learn a lesson of assertiveness. Although it’s not perfect, it is well intentioned, honest and I would say even caring. Caring too much is Felicia’s fault, but in the end, she does have enough resources to face the truth, and to express it, and to formulate the quite essential questions she is running away from throughout the movie.
I recommend to all of you who start to put questions to yourselves seeing this film to read Eric Berne’s “Games people play” [en, html], translated into Romanian as “Jocuri pentru adulti” [ro, html]. I also strongly recommend to the producers and the PR consultants to get in touch with the Transactional Analysis Romanian Association [site, yahoogroup] to organize a similar view for the therapists, it would have a huge impact.
You can read some of the Romanian bloggers’ chronicles here: