“It used to be nice, back then, right? Now, it’s just bad.”
Thirteen couples and one single female converge at a remote camp designed to help them get perspective on, and potentially strengthen, their relationships. The camp is run by three young men, all of whom are wrestling with their own issues. There’s Silviu (Dragos Bucur), the group’s obvious lethario who isn’t sure he believes love or relationships are supposed to last a lifetime. Valentin (Dorian Boguta) has just learned his significant other, Monica, has slept with her cousin. And Cristian (Alexandru Papadopol) is so asexual that even he doesn’t know what he’s into.
Over the course of six days, the group is challenged in various ways. Although all exercises are somewhat novel from an outsider’s perspective, none is more intimate and telling than the first kiss exercise. During which, Cristian guides the group through the experience by having them remember what it was like to kiss their respective partners for the first time. It’s an intimate and lovely moment in a film otherwise stippled with fights, disappointment, and three-legged races. There is something very powerful about seeing so many people kissing simultaneously in a single shot.
That there is such a large cast is both hilarious and vaguely bothersome. At first, I found myself wanting to keep up with all of the subplots and characters. The film, however, felt garbled as a result. I told myself it was okay not to remember everything about every couple. After all, the film is mostly about the three men who run the workshop. This feeling of confusion and of being slightly overwhelmed is a terrific way to immerse the audience into the lives of the counselors. The main thing to note is that this camp is utilized by all sorts of different people from different socio-economic backgrounds and sexualities, which is the aspect I most like about Love Building. It feels as though the filmmakers have done what they could to be inclusive. After all, with such a huge assortment of characters, Love Building wants you to relate to someone.
Crafted with a slight documentary-style feel, Love Building has a subtle comedic element to it. When Valentin learns his significant other has cheated on him, he begins stalking her Facebook page until, at last, she updates her status to “single” and he comes unhinged. While little moments like these are sprinkled throughout, and are sure to get a modest chuckle from most of its audience, know that Love Building is built on exposing conflict.
In an exercise designed to enable couples to share their secrets with their partners, many come away with cuts and bruises. Sure, it feels like a rather heavy-handed allegory of how we hurt one another when we keep things to ourselves, but in the moments that follow, the camp attendees are invited to take their frustrations out on a punching bag. The filmmakers do a solid job of representing the anger and hurt everyone feels – even those who have just finished confessing to their adulterous ways. As each member of the cast lines up and takes their turn at the bag, it’s easy to see how anyone in any relationship can begin to feel as though they are not being heard, that they’re not getting what they need, and how – even over a period of a few months – a relationship can fall apart as a result.
Dragos Bucur is charming in the role of Silviu, onto which he projects a lighthearted warmth that helps carry the film. Supported by Dorian Boguta in the role of Valentin, the two share an onscreen chemistry that falls just short of a full on bromance. After all, it’s clear that Silviu wants to be seen as the alpha male of the group, the one who can’t be bothered with an antiquated concept of love that lasts forever. A fact made all the most humorous when his ex-girlfriend of three years shows up at the camp with her lover, a married man.
I liked Love Building, but for none of the reasons I thought I would. I enjoyed the mild repartee between the camp’s counselors but felt there was too much going on to allow its audience to develop any emotional attachment to the story or characters. Even though couples are throwing punches at one another and counselors are sleeping with clients, I wonder if the audience will care. In a drama, as in horror, the audience’s emotional attachment is pivotal to the success of the story.
What transpires in Love Building‘s lean 85 minutes is an exposition on whether love can be “fixed” in a week. And while I applaud the filmmaker’s attempts to create an inclusive film, none of the relationships feel as though they are examined with any sort of depth. In short, I wanted more.
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