Adrian Sitaru’s fifth feature film, the French – Romanian co-production “Fixeur” (which had its international premiere at the International Toronto Film Festival in 2016, and its national premiere on the 27th of January 2017), is the first of the director’s films where he is not involved in the writing of the screenplay as well. This doesn’t mean, however, that, for those familiar with the Romanian cinematographer’s work, “Fixeur” would seem to be any less a film authored by Adrian Sitaru. On the contrary: both at the level of theme development, and that of stylistic pursuits, this is a film that undeniably carries Sitaru’s mark.
“Fixeur” reminds us of “Art”, the director’s short film, released in 2014; which explicitly raised the moral issue of abuse in cinema: in what context or to what degree is it justifiable to use, in the name of cinematographic art, unprofessional or even underage actors – who are asked to interpreted roles which may prove traumatizing for them? “Fixeur” begs the question, first and foremost, of the problem abuse present in mass-media. The cinematographer, however, does not stop here. As the critic Ancuta Proca rightly observes, in her cronic written for „Dilema Veche”, in comparison with his short film, the director „goes even further, showing in his newest film that the result of this artistic process is also a product (valid for both foreign journalism and for its market – film festivals), which makes the subject even more questionable. Therefore, the two films present an auto-reflexive side (more intensely so, doubtlessly, the short), both being films whose subject is also cinema itself.
I believe a few pieces of information regarding the genesis of Sitaru’s two cinematographic projects are neccessary. The feature film’s screenplay was penned by the Silisteanu couple – Claudia and Adrian, who were inspired by their experience as fixeurs (mediator between a team of foreign journalists and local people) at the beginning of the millenium. Adrian is a DOP by profession, who has been collaborating with Adrian Sitaru since their college days.
As for the idea for the short film, it is strongly linked to the film analised here, as Sitaru himself states in a press material: „Art was born from the discussions we had during the development for Fixeur’s screenplay, about an underage girl caught in the web of sexual trafficking. The thought that we would have to find a 14 year old girl to play this role made us analyze the idea of abuse and what it supposes very carefully, as we can easily become abusers in the name of righteous causes, for quality journaslim, or for art.”
In Fixeur, the narative premises are clearly displayed on screen, as in most of the director’s films. The protagnist, Radu (interpreted by Tudor Aaron Istodor, in the best role his cinematographic carreer has seen up until this point), is a young man with journalist aspirations, who momentarily has an internship at the Bucharest located office of France-Press (AFP). He mostly translates news reports and, when needed, acts as a fixeur for the french reporters visiting Romania in search of hot news. He lives together with Carmen (Andreea Vasile), succesful journalist and mother of a boy (Matei, played by Cristian Ilinca – very well chosen and guided, as are all the child actors in Sitaru’s films) from a previous relationship. Radu, however, has adopted the boy as his own and is instructing him in order to have better results in his swimming contests. In relation to both the mother and the child, the protagonist manifests a visible inferiority complex (strengthened by the fact that, we are led to believe, Carmen is the one who fixed him up for his AFP internship and his first jobs as a fixeur). Radu ries to solve this inferiority complex through his relationship with the boy.
When two underage girls are repatriated from France, where they had been obligated to activate as sex workers, and they accept to provide testimony against the heads and clients of infantile prostitution network that they had been a part of, Radu spies an opportunity that could bring him not only money but also acceptance into the golden circles of journalism. As his boss at the AFP is refused an interview with one of the victims, Anca (Diana Spatarescu – this film’s great revelation), and Carmen also meets with certain difficulties in reaching Anca, as she is protected by an orthodox christian NGO that rehabilitates minors that were taken out of the human trafficking circuit, Radu sees his chance and takes it. He calls Axel (Mehdi Nebbou), a french TV reporter whom he has worked with in the past, and who is a hunter for sensational stories. He convinces him to join him on his trip to Bistrita, to film a material which he believes has great potential. Radu, Axel and Serge, the cameraman defeat all obstacles and get the interview they were seeking. However, the protagonist then goes through a profound ethic crisis (as do most of the protagonist in New Romanian Cinema, from Cristi Puiu onwards), realizing that the methods he used to reach his goal do not greatly differ from the ones that proxenet himself used on this same girl. Otherwise said, it would seem that the abuse against such beings as this young girl, turned victim, will never cease to perpetuate, whatever the reasons, more or less noble, that the abusive men will give to justify their more or less legitimate actions.
The most incisive and stimulating feature film that Adrian Sitaru has made so far, as other critics (including Andrei Gorzo) have observed, Fixeur raises before us, with the assumed honesty specific to the director, a mirror who’s image will not readily be accepted by many. That is exactly why such films are providential.
by Mihai Fulger
English translation by Maia Petrigenaru Van Kline