Romanian new-wave director Calin Peter Netzer ("Medal of Honor") and screenwriter Razvan Radulescu ("The Death of Mr. Lazarescu") were bouncing around ideas for a film about a dysfunctional family when they began talking about their own relationships with their parents.
"We discovered we both have some kind of domineering mother," said Netzer over the phone from his home in Bucharest.
The result, "Child's Pose," which opens Friday, is an Oedipal tale in the guise of a psychological thriller about a domineering mother and her obsessive love for her now-adult son.
"Child's Pose," which won the Golden Bear last year at the Berlin Film Festival and was Romania's Oscar submission for foreign language films, derives its title from the well-known yoga pose. The meaning was originally explained in a scene in the film but was cut for time. "But we decided to keep the title because it has other meanings, like the positioning between the child and the parents," Netzer said.
Award-winning Luminita Gheorghiu ("The Death of Mr. Lazarescu") plays Cornelia, a wealthy, opinionated and emotionally suffocating architect with a milquetoast doctor husband. She will do anything and everything to keep her wastrel thirtysomething son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), out of prison after he runs over a boy in a speeding accident.
"She is obsessive about Barbu," Netzer noted. "His neurotic problem is that consciously he wants to get away from her because he is grown-up, but unconsciously his emotional point of view is very near Cornelia's because he was raised like that."
"Child's Pose" also explores the nouveau riche of Romanian society since the end of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal rule in 1989 and the rampant corruption in public institutions.
Netzer — who first worked with Gheorghiu on his first feature, 2003's "Maria" — and Radulescu wrote the role of Cornelia with Gheorghiu in mind. But Netzer had a change of heart when he started the casting process.
"I wanted to make sure she was the best for the part," he explained. "I wanted a fresher face because she's very well known. But after two months, casting her was by far the best option."
After winning the top prize last February in Berlin, Netzer spent the rest of 2013 traveling to film festivals. And much to his surprise, the audience reaction was always the same.
"Mothers and sons have reacted all over the world," Netzer said. "Very many people were coming to me and told me they recognized themselves in the characters."