One Floor Below

This summer, I wrote a little about my appreciation for some harmless eavesdropping. Not in a creepy way. But if you’re having a conversation while I’m in earshot, I’m listening in. For instance, just a moment ago, I overheard one colleague saying to another “I brought soup for supper tonight but will go out to get some salad so I can get my vegetables too. Not that salad is vegetables”.

The comments from some of our readers could not have been more validating. Who would have thought that so many bloggers loved to watch out of the corner of their eye as strangers live their lives? I’ve never felt better about not minding my own business.

The response I got was a little surprising. It seems to contradict my favorite Morgan Freeman speech of all time, where he tells Brad Pitt “In any major city, minding your own business is a science”. This line from Se7en, despite being delivered with the conviction of a great actor in his prime, may seem a little strange given our obsession with office gossip and the private lives of celebrities. Of course, this isn’t what Freeman was talking about. What if the person you’re watching happens to need your help? Suddenly, it can be quite tempting to play the “Hey, this is none of my business” card.

So it goes with Patrascu in One Floor Below, a Romanian thriller from director Radu Muntean. Climbing the stairs to his apartment, Patrascu can’t help overhearing, especially since he stops for a moment to listen in, a scandalous argument between two lovers in an apartment one floor below. From the sounds of it, the heated discussion quickly escalates into a case of domestic violence, at which point the middle-aged husband and father decides “Hey, this is none of my business” and moves on. The next day, he learns that the young woman one floor below has been murdered.

Why introduce my review with three paragraphs of questionably relevant references to eavesdropping, salad, and Morgan Freeman? Well, I had to talk about SOMETHING! What do you say about a movie where nothing much happens? However thought-provoking Patrascu’s moral dilemma, Muntean makes his point in one or two short scenes, leaving very little to talk about for the rest of the movie. The ambitious director struggles to find drama in a murder case where the main character makes no effort either to investigate or find justice (in fact, he lies to the police to avoid getting involved).

Muntean asks some good questions and makes some unsettling observations in One Floor Below but there aren’t enough of them- and not nearly enough plot- to fill 93 minutes. I admire the restraint with which he tells a story that could have so easily given in to melodrama. I couldn’t help feeling like I really should be liking this movie. But it really couldn’t hold my attention. And this coming from a guy who is captivated by two colleagues talking about soup.

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15 thoughts on “One Floor Below

  1. kmSalvatore

    Lol… Oh I hear ya;) ..haven’t heard of this movie, and once again it sound like something that will eventually be on the boobtube.
    We always listen to other peeps conversations when we go out for a bite to eat, ya just never know what your going to hear;) and then there’s me besides listening in… My iPhone is ready to get a few snaps of the peeps as well;)!!! Some times it’s better than going to the movies;)

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    1. Matt Post author

      Ha well, unless your boobtude shows a lot of Romanian films, you may have to put in a special effort to seek this one out. Which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend.
      Kathy, you’re great but you’re also my worst nightmare. I’m always stressed when I’m out for dinner whether the people next to us are listening in on our conversation. That’s why I hate sitting next someone who is dining alone. I am always very careful where I sit when I’m on a first date and now I’ll be especially careful not to be sitting near your or your iPhone. 🙂

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  2. gardentourist

    One Floor Below could be the title of the conflictual relationship with my new neighbourhood… what if you don’t want to hear but you can’t not? I keep loving accidental eavesdropping… except at home, right where I could have plenty with full comfort! Weird, isn’t it?

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    1. Matt Post author

      Weird, maybe. But I think I understand your thinking. We all like a little accidental eavesdropping but it’s a little different when it invades our home because we feel like we can’t escape it. And you know that you’ll have to face these people in the hall or stairwell the next day.

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  3. Liz A.

    It is an interesting moral dilemma. Too bad the film did nothing with it.

    Most of my job involves me listening in on teenage conversations. If you’re going to have a conversation in my vicinity, I’m listening. Have been all my life.

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    1. Matt Post author

      I think part of it is that people don’t care as much anymore anyway. I’ve noticed that people on buses etc. seem quite comfortable with everyone around them hearing their conversation.
      As for One Floor Below, they did ask some interesting questions. I just don’t think there was enough to fill 93 minutes. Maybe it would have worked better as a short film.

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