10 March 2017 | nicudin
From its Incipit, which brings the audience to Constanta, on Romania's Black Sea Coast in the year 1989, the medium-length film "Veni, Vidi, Fugi" seems to announce some sort of revisiting to director's native lands, possibly converted into an evocative "Axis Mundi". The unusual note hits us right away though, when we catch sight of the Roman Poet Ovid, exiled to Tomis 2000 years ago in 8 AD, immersed in reading a letter, while the protagonist's voice - a Constanta 12th grade student who is in huge trouble in his Latin class, ''flows" over the fluid travelling shot capturing Ovid's desolation (cultural touch which has brought to the film a special award in Montecatini Festival). As two millenia are compressed instantly through this juxtaposition, we are then thrown through Viorel Sergovici Jr's dynamic camera style into the midst of a romantic innuendo initiated by the protagonist trying to win the heart of a classmate via nonchalant maneuvers, verging on an almost bully-like seducing style. We discover the protagonist is played by "perpetual teenager" of Romanian Cinema, Paul Diaconescu, now almost 30 and yet almost never used at the level of high potentiality demonstrated in the Acting University shows and even coming under a negative spotlight in a production such as "Mamaia" (2013, Jesus del Cerro). In "Veni, Vidi, Fugi" (2016) the young actor though forges a convincing partnership with Constantin Florescu, maybe also because the former outwits the long pattern of supporting roles in which he ''got trapped", ''becoming" an icon - Publius Ovidius Naso, "captured" during the exile and decay stage and yet vital enough to remain a Cicerone and mentor to the young protagonist from a remote province of Rome (Tomis, on the Black Sea Coast). The partnership between protagonist and Ovid is a construct based on a parallelism which could appear somewhat artificial in the absence of any background of "bitter comedy" and also if missing one crucial plot element - both characters - Ovid and the protagonist - tie their destiny to the nieces of the major authority figures in their worlds - both brutal dictatorships - (Ovid, to Iulia, the niece of Emperor Octavian Augustus; while the protagonist is involved in an intense courtship of Iulia, his attractive classmate, who is also the niece of his morose and ominous high school's Principal.) By extracting supremely privileged "insider information" on Ovid's tribulations - from Ovid himself, the protagonist succeeds in winning over the Latin teacher, a sexy and sarcastic Maia Morgenstern (winner of two film festival awards for "Best Supporting Role" for" Veni, Vidi, Fugi" in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sydney, Australia ). Escaping from the Latin class ordeal, the protagonist's romantic interest shifts - and this is a good plot point of the script that won already this year's "Best Script in International Category" at the Film Festival in Jaipur, India, from classmate Iulia, played with aplomb by less known Malina Tomoiaga, to the "Femme Fatale" played by Raluca Aprodu (mistress of a local Party big shoot and informer for the Securitate - Ceausescu's secret services), who seems to be under a favorable star in last years, as she has achieved definitive recognition in Bogdan Mirica's 2016 "Dogs". The individual's clash with the Establishment seemed to be also at the very center of an older short film by Robert Eugen Popa,( "Regression" - 2011 - winner of "Best Director in Short Film" Award at Corinth International Film Festival 2012 ), built as "Veni, Vidi, Fugi" on a script written together with former UCLA peer and buddy, Timothy M. Brice. From that older film - actors Dorian Boguta (plausible and versatile in the lead role, with the exception of the final scene where there is a credibility slip from his otherwise "chameleonic" range ) Geo Dobre and Claudiu Trandafir are brought back, last two as a pair of secret agents to enhance the directorial comic vision, that is also well supported by Ovidiu Vacaru's fast pace editing. Intense "chromatics" is the portrayal of the nefariously funny criminal trio of the Pig Bros, out of which the Geavit character offers to Elias Ferkin a very earthy role to think his teeth into, at least after the preponderantly mystical characters played in "Kasimir" ( 2013, Directed by Dorian Boguta) and "4.15 The End of the World" (2016 Directed by Catalin Rotaru & Gabi Virginia Sarga). There is no doubt that the complex target of an elaborate historical recreation of the two eras represented in the film would scream for very different financial resources than the ones available to this production. That being the case, the authorial voice falls on the paraphrase (starting with Caesar's title twist, which rather reminds us of Napoleon's witticism "La seule victoire en amour c'est la fuite") coupled with a obvious eloquence of some characters and a certain intertextuality, meant probably to soften the tragedy of the exile theme: the 12th grade student seems to be opting for radical escape, while Ovid seems to be "going native", in the most accentuated Balkan way, on this remote outpost of the Black Sea Coast. Intellectually skeptical, but pragmatic and very ambitious, the Screenwriter-Director Robert Eugen Popa has ample material and a feature breath for "Veni, Vidi, Fugi" - and other features to come, whether in Romania, the United States or wherever abroad, because, as Ovid's life taught us, the artist doesn't meet always with his homeland imperatives.