The bottom of the sky: La limita de jos a cerului

Unlocked letterboxes and envelopes: this combination opens up a world of opportunities. If you live in Romania or spend a lot of time there you will know: in virtually every bloc you will find an inconspicuously unlocked letterbox or two. Probably more. I found out about this by frequently renting apartments during my semi-nomadic extended stays in Romania. At the end of my stay, the owner would often instruct me to leave the key in the unlocked letterbox, behind an envelope. In ‘La limita de jos a cerului’ (2013, Igor Cobileanski) much the same happens, only a different type of transaction takes place. I won’t give away too much. Let’s say numai în România. Actually, not only in Romania – because this film is set in Moldova, but that didn’t make much of a difference to me – apart from seeing a little more Cyrillic script than usual on the shop fronts.

The Unsaved’, as it is called in English, is a perfect watch for a grim autumn day, unless you don’t want to drown in melancholy of course. But I do sometimes. Sometimes you just need to give in. Let me give you a short introduction to the plot – but don’t expect a full summary because it’s Saturday and November and I’m covered in blankets on the sofa with my laptop actually on my lap. (I suddenly realized what it was for.) Also I don’t want to spoil it for you. But let me give you this.

Two hopeless guys – almost out of their teens, supposed to start taking life seriously – build a hang glider from stolen parts and sell weed to fund their hobby. Like the hang glider, their lives never really take off. If I’m not mistaken the title of the film literally translates into ‘to the limit of the bottom of the sky’. Few titles sum up the gist of a story so well: whatever little ambition they have always crashes into a wall. ‘The sky is the limit’ takes on a very different meaning with this film, which I loved watching despite its grimness. Because Romanians always know how to make fun of despair. To bring out the bright side of the dark.

Perhaps that is one other reason Romania and I are such a good match: in Romania, you see life as it is. Here in Belgium where I now live, or in the Netherlands where I was raised, everything looks tidy and shiny. Life’s raw sides are covered up, shoved under the carpet. No such thing in Romania: although beauty is always around the corner, life’s bleakness is never denied, but almost celebrated.

In the thirty-three-and-something years I’ve been walking/crawling this planet, life has made it perfectly clear to me that it is to be taken seriously. You can have a laugh every now and again, take in some beauty or feel satisfied some days, but on other days – perhaps most days for some people – you’re going to witness all the ways in which life does not quite take off. These are the days on which you crash, or don’t get what you bargained for, are not recognized as the celebrity you feel you are. The days on which you just plod on because you don’t see the point. You may not even see the point of giving up. And perhaps that’s for the best – not giving up even when you have no idea what you’re doing it for. Life. Because every once in a while there’s going to be a day or a split second that makes the plodding totally worth it – although these moments have a tendency to be fleeting and the plodding begins all over again. I suppose this is what we call hope – which I’m not sure I should refer to as my best friend or my worst enemy. Because it is relentless. But I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

Blocked road towards the station in Timișoara

I feel I’ve slightly wavered from the topic (this was about a Cinepub film, remember) and perhaps crossed the line into the murky territories of not-so-peppy-pep talks. But I’m not going to let the marshes suck me in – they’ve done that enough – and instead am going to recline on my sofa again and warm my chilled-from-typing hands with a mug of tea, to pretend that everything is perfectly fine and so am I. I hope I have not deterred you from watching this film. If you are too cheerful a person you should absolutely watch it – it will bring you back down to earth. If you are a not-so-cheerful person like me you should go for it too because isn’t commiseration one of the greatest feelings on earth if you’re suffering from Weltschmerz yourself? Really, do yourself a favour and give Viorel and Gâsca a go.

PS More Romanian films I really loved.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe and receive an email notification for each new blog post.

‘Please keep quiet between the hours of 15-18 and 21-7’

What do you think?