Miss Christina (1992)

Rating: D+

Dir: Viorel Sergovici
Star: Adrian Pintea, Mariana Buruiană, Dragoș Pâslaru, Irina Petrescu
a.k.a. Domnișoara Christina

This is an odd, low-energy hodgepodge of a film, which is based on a 1936 novella written by Mircea Eliade. The key word may be “novella”, as I sense there just is not enough meat on its bones for a feature length film, if this adaptation is a faithful one. You get an awful lot of sitting around and chatting, interspersed with some slightly creepy dream imagery. Maybe I watched the wrong version? There was another movie based on the story, released in 2013: perhaps that’s better. Truth be told, I’ll probably never know. After enduring this sluggish cinematic experience, I’m not exactly feeling impelled to check out other versions of the same story.

It takes place in a country house during the thirties, where Egor Paschievici (Pintea) is visiting the Moscu family. As well as the matriarch, there are two daughters, Sanda and Simina, the former of whom Egor has fallen for. But his nights are haunted by dreams of a seductive woman. This turns out to be Christina (Buruiană), who was Sanda’s aunt. The problem is, she died in murky circumstances thirty years previously. The way Mrs. Moscu tells it, her sister was not a nice person, to put it mildly, who was killed after abusing the locals over an extended period. However, the way Christina explains it to Egor in his increasingly charged dreams, that was not the case. What is the real truth – and more importantly, can I find it within myself to give a damn?

Spoiler, for the second part at least: no, I really couldn’t. Perhaps it all makes more immediate sense to the local Romanian audience, or those who had read the book. Googling revealed that Christina – in the novella specifically – is a strigoi. This is a troubled spirit, risen from the grave and able to sustain itself with blood from its victims. It’s generally considered one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and is why I was considering this as a Romanian entry for 31 Days of Vampires. It’d have been nice to have one from the home of Vlad the Impaler. But this was just too obtuse to qualify; there’s a reason it’s filed under “ghosts”, not “vampires”. 

Indeed it’s only right at the end, with an attempted staking, that a foreign viewer might go “Vampire?”, and perhaps make a connection to the illness affecting Sanda, making her waste away. I’d still not be prepared to swear to what exactly happens at the end. There seems to be a mob of angry villagers with torches involved, as Egor and his allies seek to lay Christina’s soul to rest. It could be that Egor has gone back in time, Shining-style. Or perhaps not. Explanations are not something this film is bothered about. It doesn’t so much end as stop, in a way I doubt anyone could find satisfactory. There’s a garish, made for TV feed to proceedings that doesn’t help. It’s easy to understand why the Romanian horror industry is largely limited to providing locations for foreign productions.