A turn-of-the-20th-century Christmas Eve gathering among five members of the European elite at an elegant Transylvanian estate becomes the setting for an increasingly intense succession of conversations. These discursive elaborations on good and evil, Jesus and the Devil, and war and peace take place in a series of well-appointed rooms with the utmost gentility, but the simmering violence beneath their veneer of politesse, and the occasional shocking nature of the subject matter at hand, come to reveal the invasive horrors of the colonialist mindset, couched in Western philosophy inspired by the writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Romanian director Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) has created a pristine, sometimes terrifying vision, a portrait of the damned that would only seem absurdist if it didn’t feel so utterly up-to-date. An NYFF58 Main Slate selection.
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