I watched Ryna while my wife watched Shopgirl on the TV. And aside from watching Ryna because I thought it was going to be a film about a DVD reviewer whose name is misspelled, there were a lot more differences between the two films. As far as I could tell, Shopirl appeared to be about a girl with Downï¿½s Syndrome who falls in love with her Dad but reconsiders at the end (whoops, my wife tells me that Iï¿½ve got it wrong), Ryna is about a girl who tries to rise above being repressed because of her gender.
Ryna is the title character of a 16 year old girl (played by Doroteea Petre) who lives with her parents in a small Romanian town. Her father Biri (Valentin Popescu) has raised her as a boy with short hair, because he’s disappointed that his only child was not born a male. Together they run an auto repair service that does price gouge foreign travelers from time to time. When a French anthropologist comes into town, he tells her about the world outside of her small town, and she wants to break out and enjoy life, despite her father’s wishes.
Written and directed by Ruxandra Zenide, Ryna is an intriguing look at life within the town, as Biri’s grip on Ryna appears to be more symbolic on previously held (and possibly draconian) Romanian values. When Ryna talks to the anthropologist named George (played by Matthieu Roze), she has an idea of how things could be, and she wants to see more of the world outside of a struggling auto repair shop. When Biri sees George’s talks with Ryna as a threat to his control over her, he decides to exert more influence and control over her. When she resists further, he resorts to drastic actions that even he realizes go above and beyond what he would normally consider as “parental guidance”.
The performances in the film are very good, and what I’m reminded of in this film is that everyone appears genuinely sad, but in a subconscious manner. With the exception of Ryna, they all seem to know in the back of their minds that they are not going to leave their town. And Biri’s treatment of Ryna seems to reflect that in some terms. In Petre’s eyes and actions, the repression she’s been experiencing appears to wear her down physically, and at the end of the film, almost renders her speechless. She portrays the “typical repressed main character” very effectively, and because she carries that hurt very well, it makes Ryna compelling to watch.
Zenide filmed Ryna in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation and accomplished most of the filming using handheld shots. The overall image appears consistently soft, with a haze that appears throughout the film. If this softness and haze is more about the Romanian atmosphere and less about picture problems, then God bless the Romanians for living in those conditions.
The only soundtrack is a two channel stereo mix. It’s probably the only real method that was available to Zenide and the soundtrack doesn’t really have to do anything else. Aside from some older women singing as part of a town festival, there’s no reason to have a six channel mix. The dialogue and production effects are reproduced accurately without any mosquito noise or other issues.
No extras to speak of on this disc, aside from the trailer.
I would never think that a foreign film shot in Romania would appeal to me, but even though it’s tale has been told before in other films, Ryna does it a little more effectively than most of them. It’s definitely worth checking out.