A homosexual laughing and kissing his French lover; a Police officer listening to his colleagues who are joking about women; a man who desperately tries to unite these two self-perceptions within himself: the drama “Poppy Field”, which was released in 2020 and directed by Eugen Jebeleanu -the only openly gay director in all Romania- tells the story of Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer), who is a gay policeman in the conservatively influenced country Romania. While being visited by his somewhat secret lover from France, Cristi gets called on a mission to a movie theater where religious fanatics are protesting against the projection of an LGBTQIA+ movie. When a former lover of Cristi threatens to kick him out in front of his colleagues during the intervention, a night of anxiety and emotional rollercoaster begins for him.
The harmony and warmth that the viewer first feels when seeing Cristi and his boyfriend rolling around in bed, hugging and smiling shyly at each other, is abruptly interrupted by the long shot that shows the protest scene in the movie theatre. Loud voices, angry faces, the bored police officers who don’t achieve anything, and the viewer is right in the middle of this huge chaos. We quickly get an insight into the discomforting atmosphere of the movie. For 80 minutes straight we experience the two paradoxical sides of Cristi’s life.
On the one hand, he is a gay man who is in love and in the process of accepting his own sexuality. But on the other hand, in the movie clearly dominating hand, he is part of a patriarchic and xenophobic work field that is in the centre of a homophobic society in denial. Whoever thinks that the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy vanished around the same time as MP3 players just needs to observe the tension between Cristi and his fellow police officers. Everybody knows that his colleagues might know about Cristi’s sexuality, but since nobody would ever dare to even mention the topic, all of the dialogues are just a tornado of metaphors, hints and indirect advices that leave the viewer with a huge mess and a big question mark in their head.
In the end it is up to us to decide whether Cristi’s colleagues knew that he was gay or not, but what is certain is that as long as everybody acts like he is a heterosexual, that is how society will perceive him. The long conversations with hidden clues and the active ignorance they show towards Cristi’s sexuality show the ridiculousness and absurdity of a society that chooses not to see whatever they don’t want to see. All this is accompanied by the apparent team spirit of all the Police officers. When the whole team tries to cover up a mistake that Cristi made, it might at first seem emotional. However, the closer we get to the end of the movie, the more obvious it becomes how toxic and insincere this bond between the colleagues is. To the objective observer it is obvious: this “team spirit” will only persist as long as the Police officers can pretend to not see and willingly ignore the fact that Cristi is gay. The movie leaves us with a rather hopeless ending: Cristi, still not willing to show himself to his colleagues and his fellow Police officers, still choosing not to see what is right in front of them. The movie ends at the exact same point as it started. Jebeleanu gives “Poppy Field” a very personal note by always keeping the focus of the camera on the person who is speaking. Every blink, every smile, every motion is of importance to portray the dilemma that Cristi finds himself in. During some scenes it is partially difficult to find the connection between the ongoing dialogue and Cristi’s struggle, while parts of other scenes seem to serve no purpose and could therefore be perceived as somewhat random. In any case, it gives us a perfect insight into a conflicted character in a toxic society that chooses hatred over honesty.