April 21, 2008
In a way, Ruxandra Zenide's debut film, Ryna suggests Claudia Llosa's Madeinusa in its allegorical tale of a young woman coming of age under a moral vacuum of isolation, lawlessness, and repressive authority. Set in a poor rural community along the Danube delta where the town's depressed economy is as tied to the commerce of fishing as it is to preying on the gullibility of others (a stagnation that is also implied in the grandfather's life savings of useless, communist-era currency), the film chronicles Ryna's (Doroteea Petre) process of maturation and self-awareness after a fateful encounter with a visiting French doctoral candidate, George (Matthieu Rozé) who has come to the region on an anthropological research study of the town's inhabitants in search of the origin of Latin. The only child of a tyrannical and increasingly desperate gas station and garage owner, Biri (Valentin Popescu), Ryna has obediently, if reluctantly, acquiesced to her father's whims, keeping her hair closed cropped and donning an oversized mechanics coveralls (but whose beauty, nevertheless, catches the eye of the passing researcher and the mailman (Theodor Delciu)), as well as sabotaging parked cars and inflating charges by diagnosing non-existent mechanical problems to unsuspecting stranded motorists. Facing the loss of their primary source of revenue when the town bypass road is completed to accommodate better interstate traffic, Biri has begun to ingratiate himself into the company of the town mayor in order to obtain a permit to relocate his business new the new road, a nefarious alliance that grows even more sinister when the mayor, still continuing to delay approval of the permit in order to extract additional favors from Biri, takes a romantic interest in young Ryna. Like Salvador, the passing stranger in Madeinusa, George becomes a catalyst for Ryna's awakening, representing the possibility of connection, liberation, and self-identity away from the oppressive captivity of the insular town - the link to a transcendent elsewhere.