A breathtaking review by Morgan Shnier
The 2015 film #Beings, Andrei Stefanescu’s second feature, is a partially experimental, partially narrative cinematic reflection on guilt, beauty, and obligation. The film tells the story of Eva (Doro Höhn), her estranged lover Teo (Catalin Jugravu), and their mutual friend Ana (Andrea Christina Furrer) who attempts to support the two as each falls into madness and melancholy. After Eva suffers a seizure, Teo kicks her out in a rage. Despite Eva’s efforts, they fail to reconcile, and Eva breaks down over the imperfections she sees in herself, imperfections that she believes prevent Teo from loving her. At the same time, Teo begins to mentally and physically break down. Ana, stretched between her friendship with Eva and her own love for Teo, attempts to help both of them, but is unsuccessful. Eva, wanting to escape her own skin, instead escapes from city life, at least for a moment, by lighting out alone into a decaying industrial wasteland, facing west toward the setting sun.
The film’s lead actors play their roles admirably. In particular, Höhn effectively and realistically portrays Eva’s anguish. Furrer should also be lauded for the subtleties of her performance. With subtle gazes and facial tics, she elegantly portrays Ana’s own suffering and anxiety.
Aesthetically, #Beings is perhaps at its best when Stefanescu allows the camera to linger upon his characters’ bodies. In carefully framed close-ups and medium shots throughout the film, Stefanescu traces the strange topographies of the everyday human body, treating the body as something observable yet unknowable. Early self-reflexive shots in the film’s opening scene subdivide actor Piotr Bockowski’s body like a series of anatomical diagrams. In contrast, certain shots of Teo in the film’s second half are almost painterly, with one sequence in particular heavily evocative of Jacques-Louis David’s La Mort de Marat.
Likewise, the film’s closing sequences in Teufelsberg are a practice in post-modern sublimity. While Stefanescu generally avoids traditional compositional structures in #Beings, these final shots have a classical, almost pastoral sensibility, with Eva bracketed on both sides by the derelict radar domes of the location’s former NSA listening station. This lends the scene an air of decay and suspicion entirely appropriate to Eva’s own feelings toward her own body.
However, #Beings is not without its faults. Stefanescu tends toward long shot durations that give the film a rather slow, halting rhythm that does not always jibe with the plot. Likewise, Stefanescu’s micro-budget aesthetic at times detracts from the film’s effectiveness. For instance, his handheld camerawork tends to give even calm, contemplative sequences a rather frenzied air. These scenes would have certainly benefited from a tripod or steadicam.
The film’s sound also has its issues. In most scenes, one can hear the distracting hum of an air conditioner or running water. The soundtrack to #Beings is a series of haunting industrial grinding tones that give an appropriate sense of paranoiac dread but, unfortunately, Stefanescu includes this track in scenes in which it is unnecessary, often drowning out or diluting the effect of the film’s dialogue.
That being said, the film’s beautiful aesthetics more than overcome these relatively minor foibles. #Beings, an excellent sophomore outing for Stefanescu, should not be passed up.