ON IN CINEMAS
EIFF 2018: Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl (2017)
N.B. This film is not on general release in the UK at present. It was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018.
A lesbian relationship in a country in transition
This Romanian New Wave drama starts off with an online face-to-face conversation between two lesbians living in Bucharest, one of whom (played by Silvana Mihai) is a writer for a woman’s magazine and the other (played by Florentina Nastase) is a film student. It turns out that both of them have had affairs with the same tall woman of the title.
They decide to start up a relationship with each other. However, while Florentina is very forward and open to the world about her sexuality (even in the face of homophobic abuse and violence from a taxi driver), Silvana - who comes from a small town where there are no known lesbians - is rather more reticent and uncomfortable.
Watch a trailer:
Is this the Romanian Blue Is The Warmest Colour?
Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl (or, to give it its Romanian title, Câteva conversații despre o fată foarte înaltă) has been dubbed “the Romanian Blue Is The Warmest Colour“ in some quarters although, to be honest, that’s a pretty reductive way of looking at it. Ok, so it takes a similarly candid, realist approach to depicting the ups and downs of a lesbian relationship. However, it comes from an entirely different place, both geographically and thematically.
Romania is a country very much in transition from its traditional status as a backward post-communist backwater to a progressive and technologically-advanced state. The two young women who take centre stage here embrace laptops, social media, video filmmaking and a distinctively bohemian fashion sense but still live in cramped Communist-era apartments. Likewise, outside of the hip young urban circle in which Florentina resides (as depicted in one lengthy tracking shot at an all-girl party), it’s a country where Eastern Orthodox conservatism still drives attitudes towards non-heterosexuality.
Tellingly, the film remains mostly “in the closet” of Silvana’s apartment - at most, featuring the couple cuddling on the balcony for a night-time look over the city. As the name suggests, it takes the form largely of a series of two-hander conversations between the leading actresses. There’s a real sense of intimacy imbued via the camera’s near-constant proximity to the performers as they chat, flirt, eat, drink, undress and (for a few moments of screen time) have sex. Silvana and Florentina both give believable, well-observed performances and have a real sense of chemistry in their interactions towards each other. The viewer almost feels like they are watching a genuine video diary rather than a film.
While the build-up is slow and deliberate, the focus on the finer details of the relationship creates a gradual sense of investment which makes the climactic argument (a culmination of the two women’s disparate viewpoints on how “out” they are) all the more shattering. Is the relationship over permanently at this point, or is it an in-the-moment bust-up which they will overcome with time? Well, the ending leaves it somewhat open to interpretation.
With an unusually short runtime of 70 minutes, Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl seems like a fine place for non-initiates to acquaint themselves with the flash-free, naturalistic, fly-on-the-wall style of Romanian New Wave cinema. Assuming it gets a proper release in the UK, of course.
Runtime: 70 mins
Dir: Bogdan Theodor Olteanu
Script: Bogdan Theodor Olteanu, Ana Ivan, Denisa Niţă
Starring: Silvana Mihai, Florentina Nastase