Police, Adjective, 2009

The disjunction between moral and bureaucratic law, meaning and intent shapes the discourse of Corneliu Porumboiu’s meticulously observed, if clinical and muted procedural film, Police, Adjective. Assigned to conduct surveillance on a typical, middle-class teenager named Alex (Alexandru Sabadac) who is suspected of dealing drugs, junior detective and newlywed, Cristi (Dragos Bucur) spends his days trailing his young suspect through his daily routine – going to school, meeting friends, walking home, receiving visitors – before returning to the precinct each evening to write detailed reports on the suspect’s (in)activities for the day, often wrapping up his observations by expressing his skepticism over the necessity to continue the suspect’s pursuit. But his supervisor, Angelache (Vlad Ivanov) believes that he has found probable cause among Cristi’s daily reports, citing an occasion when Alex was spotted smoking hashish with friends near a playground. For Angelache, the simple act of passing around the hashish to his friends constitutes “distribution” and becomes more determined to make an arrest, pitting him against a reluctant Cristi on the role of law enforcement in society. Porumboiu reflects this sense of moral rupture through the film’s overarching structure, contrasting Cristi’s near-wordless, real-time surveillance sequences with his nightly composition of one-page reports that underscore the impreciseness of language (an ambiguity that also surfaces during a conversation with his wife, Anca [Irina Saulescu] over the lyrics to a song that she repeatedly listens to over dinner). Framed against Cristi’s didactic, extended meeting with Angelache near the end of the film, Cristi’s crisis of conscience serves as a provocative, modern day reflection of innate humanity that is being systematically erased in the soulless pursuit of civilized society.

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