Infinite Football (2018): It’s long and nothing happens

Infinite Football (original title Fotbal Infinit) is still running the festival circuit and has been favorably described by some very big reviewers, who spout flowery and philosophical essays with sentences too complex to understand. When so little happens in the film, you end up filling the unused space in your mind with meditations on what Director Corneliu Porumboiu is really trying to say. 

Porumboiu possesses gravitas as one of Romania’s new wave directors. He has joked that a characteristic of his films is that “It’s long and nothing happens.” Maybe that is what defines Romanian cinema. Jordan Hoffman of the Guardian wrote:

The Romanian new wave, about a decade old by now, shows no sign of changing – and that’s entirely in tune with a style that is persistent, relentless and challenging. Not challenging to watch, as the frequently mundane subjects offer a “what you see is what you get” experience, but to audiences who may eventually want to shout, “Oh, get on with it” at the screen.

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian, Oct-5-2015

What is the movie really about?

The trailer is misleading, as it implies the film is about playing football in a new way. The Director’s heritage might also lead you to think this is a soccer movie. His father, Adrian Porumboiu, was formerly a Romanian FIFA referee, a player and financier of FC Vaslui, and a multimillionaire businessman. The Director created an earlier soccer film, The Second Game, where his father narrated a match he refereed in 1988.

But Infinite Football is instead about Laurentiu Ginghina, a middle-aged bureaucrat whose job consists of opening other people’s mail and being a cog in a government that doesn’t solve problems. His leg having been broken twice, his youthful dream to be a forester dashed, he creates a second life where he strives to reinvent the beautiful game so that the ball is the star. He painstakingly describes each revision to the Director, who in mild exasperation points out that Ginghina is working on Infinite football, as in an infinite number of versions. Yes, yes, says Ginghina.

Then the real football action comes in. A coach and his players are recruited to try out the rules indoors: these are the short scenes that show up in the trailer. It’s kind of amusing to see the coach try to explain to Ginghina why his changes don’t improve the game, but the bureaucrat does not appear to be the kind of guy who absorbs.

In the end, Ginghina’s father explains that a life of 60 years is a joke if you have nothing to show for it. At least always strive to accomplish something. He then gives the Director an enlarged photo he took at his son’s wedding, possibly the worst wedding photo ever taken. Like father like son, but the point is valid. Life is meaningful if you try. 

The film closes with a long trudge up a village road. I assume it is reminiscent of the 4-hour walk Ginghina made in his youth, abandoned by co-workers and struggling home by himself, dragging his broken leg. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the Director’s films as well. 

See? Now I have fallen into the same trap as other reviewers… So I only recommend this film to people who like to sit around afterwards and ask, What did I just watch?

BTW, the way Ginghina’s revamped football game is very similar to American Lacrosse and its restraining lines.

Original title: Fotbal Infinit

In Romanian with English sub-titles

4 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 4