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.