Malmkrog ★½

An aristocratic group of friends dine together in a lavish estate, whiling away their day (and three plus hours of the viewer’s time) engaged in tortuous conversation and long stale monologues. They debate morality, faith, and philosophy, spiralling around dense topics in an endless and interminable series of arguments. They delve into The Problem of Evil, the justifications of war, and other such tangled concepts— often creating the impression of visiting a philosophy 101 class. Except, of course, these conversations are far more patient, ordered, and articulate than any you’d find in a first-year discussion. Nevertheless, there is the same sense that this painfully tedious back-and-forth accomplishes very little in the way of depth.

It is bold and brave to make such an immense film so slow and frigidly unexciting. There is no narrative trajectory to be discerned beneath their verbose exchanges, nor any dramatic tension between the characters. Indeed, the characters appear more as mouth-pieces for ideas— uninteresting ones at that— rather than true, flesh-and-blood people.

There is a faint, distant echo of The Exterminating Angel to be found within the film’s self-contained bourgeoise perspective, but Malmkrog’s critique is dry and without energy, utterly lacking Buñuel’s rich symbolism and clever playfulness. Puiu instead imbues his film with meticulous formal work, and a concerted effort on sound, staging, and gesture. The movements resemble a slow dance between interlocutors, with precise blocking that shifts and adjusts throughout the various long takes. However, while this rigid formal work is undeniably impressive, there isn’t much it can do to redeem 200 minutes of talking in bland circles.

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