Ilegitim (Illegitimate) Berlin Film Festival 2016
Illegitimate chronicles moral dilemmas within a close-knit Romanian family, illustrating how difficult it can be to draw lines and recognise boundaries. The normally taboo topic of incest is at the forefront of this film, and arises between the twin brother and sister (Alina Grigore and Robi Urs), inevitably creating testing times. Then, to rub salt into the wound, pregnancy and the question of abortion ensue, meaning everyone’s patience, tempers and tolerance levels are challenged, and the father manifests all this in violence.
This endless can of worms of a film is entirely unscripted, which is as impressive as it is surprising. The cast give stellar performances, and behave so naturally, throwing in some off-the-cuff jokes that can often arise specifically in families, and will strike a chord with most viewers. Perhaps acting in a pseudo family setting enabled the actors to relax and have fun with their roles.
Similarly, the cinematographers were given free rein throughout, paying homage to the stripped-down Dogme style championed by director Adrian Sitaru. The close-ups and occasional sudden movements are never distracting, and even add a sense of intensity to the array of problems and scenarios. As the production is largely filmed in the family home, the condensed Dogme style camera techniques add a sense of warmth and togetherness. Delayed responses and prolonged moments of thought are heavily focused upon, and progression to the next shot is reliant on whatever the character is doing next, embracing a beautiful unpredictability.
The idea of blood being thicker than water is particularly relevant here, and it leaves viewers wondering if this genetic bond is the only way families can resolve deep-seated conflicts. How do you forgive relatives for situations that leave lifelong scars? It’s no easy task, and Ilegitim illustrates this so thoughtfully. The twins decide to go ahead with the pregnancy, but it’s surprising that there’s never any mention of the likelihood of the baby being malformed. Without a script, the obvious things can be left out for good or bad, it seems.
One of the many thought-provoking lines comes when the father says accidents happen because of someone, but we never say nature makes mistakes. In the end, he accepts his incestuous children and future granddaughter, prompting an extreme shock factor, and leaving viewers questioning how incest can ever be accepted. The other side of the coin, though, is perhaps it’s a special bond between people – twins in this case – that we can never understand.