Romania 292 Medals
With a troubled cinematic past, it is only now that Romanian cinema seems to be intent on making its mark on the world. Its cinema was largely controlled by its state, oppressing their cinematic output, which for the majority of its filmic lifetime, were mainly propagandist pieces. Unlike other communist states which still managed to embrace cinema and find ways to challenge their oppression, Romania fell silent. Not through choice of course. Any films made during the rule Nicolae Ceauescu (a dictator of the iron fist variety) were, unless supportive of his reign or Romania, shelved and kept away from the public forcing many directors into exile. On top of this, exporting their cinema was unheard of; any of its films made during these times were forced to remain within the confines of their border. Unfortunately this meant that unlike many of its European counterparts, there were no auteurs and no realist movement. Essentially there is a black hole in its cinematic history, one which it did not even begin to believe it could come out of until the revolution of Romania in 1989. With innocent blood spilt and the nation in a period of rebuilding in the early 1990s, it is only within the last 10 years that a new wave has begun. Looking to embrace its new found cinematic liberation, Romania looked towards creating its own social realist movement that many European nations had embraced during the 1960s. With free reign to examine their country, its politics and its history, Romanian cinema is flourishing and enjoying a period where its cinema is being lauded left, right and centre. It may be one of the poorest countries in Europe, but its filmmakers are finding ways to create a cinematic identity within the restraints of incredibly low budgets. Bronze 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006) The films title refers to the exact time that Nicolae Ceauescu fled, following the Romanian uprising of the revolutionaries. Focusing on the city of Vaslui, the film is set 16 years after the communist regime of Ceauescu, examining how a group of locals perceive the revolution. Jderescu runs a television station in Vaslui and on the anniversary of the revolution, considers doing a show wherein he would interview guests about their experience of the uprising. He only manages to gather two guests for his show: Manescu, a school teacher with a drinking problem and Piscoci, an elderly gentleman who is known as Santa Claus to the local children. Questioning whether there had been a revolution in the city, he asks the question to his guests who both claim they were participants in the protests the night before Ceauescu fled. When phone calls from viewers come in, their participation in the revolution comes into question. Were the citizens of Vaslui strong participants in protest or did they just sit back, watch it unfold and just follow the trend? While the film may seem to belittle the importance of the revolution to its people, it actually examines small town life and how the revolution has in actuality not changed that much in their lives. Restricted to television scenes of the revolution and watching it unfold in the city of Bucharest is far different to a small town, in which there is very little sign of change. He challenges the effects of the revolution on a wider scale, it may have changed the larger cities of the country, but what about the so called little people, it is for them he asks the question; did the revolution happen? Silver The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005)
My first experience with Romanian cinema, The Death of Mr Lazarescu is not exactly a happy watch. Over the course of a night it follows a Romanian man in his 60s, Mr Lazarescu, who teeters on the line of the living. He is a miserable old man, living to complain with no one listening but his cats. At the films beginning, he is clearly unwell and seeks help like most of us would by calling an ambulance. When he eventually manages to get in one, he is transported from hospital to hospital with each one finding a reason to not treat him. With the main character of the film slowly descending to death, it is the roles of those around him which speak louder, creating many talking points of mortality, humanity and compassion. Compassion is something that the film represents brilliantly, or rather, the distinct lack of any. The only compassion shown towards Mr Lazarescu, is from the first paramedic who meets him. Other than that, his family pay no attention to him, his doctors patronise him treating his as a body rather than a person, while his next door neighbors dont like him. Supposedly based on a true story, perhaps Puiu is criticising his nations health care, it is an interesting allegory, but I find it to be a little too simplistic. What is more interesting is the unremarkable descent to death Mr Lazarescu has. Highlighting the frailty of life and the frailty in the aspects of society which are meant to support, his slow deterioration into the after life depicts death in a cold manner. It does not show it to be frivolous or incandescent, we may not like it, but it shows it as it is, a bleak and perfunctory part of life. Gold 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Munglu, 2007) Set two years before the fall of communism, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is a humanist story which tries to avoid politics, instead brutally focusing on abortion within the country. It follows two students, Otilla and Gabita, who are roommates in a small Romanian dorm. When Gabita falls pregnant, it is Otilla who attempts to take control of the situation, arranging an illegal abortion (Ceauescu had made them illegal), paying for it and finding the abortionist. Instead of focusing on Gabita, Mungu, instead focuses on Otilla and her role in exploring the blackest of black markets. As she plans and arranges the abortion she meets up with Mr Bebe the proposed abortionist, a man who is as seedy as they come. With her relationship with her boyfriend creating problems for herself, Otilla takes on a selfless role and it is in the dark and ruthless end, that we see just how selfless she has been. An uncompromising look at abortion, Munglu has shone a bright light onto a subject which has often been shrouded in darkness, the only other film to explore it in such a way is Mike Leigh's agonizing; Vera Drake. However, what is particularly interesting is that although it focuses upon abortion, its legality is nothing more than matter of fact. There is no commentary on the politics behind its legal status or Ceauescu himself. They are merely a backdrop; instead it focuses on humanity and friendship testing the limits of both, delving into their darkest facets. With the brilliant performances of Anamaria Marinca (Otilla) and Laura Vasiliu (Gabita) it rightfully won the Golden Palm at Cannes and has helped to develop an ever growing quality in Romanian cinema.