Romaniathon Day 3: 12:08 East of Bucharest - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Jun/100

Romaniathon Day 3: 12:08 East of Bucharest

ANDREW LIKEIs historical revisionism necessary?  We’ve got people in Texas clamoring over themselves so that they can write history the way they see fit.  The country is in arms, but no one is really doing anything to stop them.  But is it necessary to keep the peace?  The best of the Romanian films that I’ve seen, 12:08 East of Bucharest, asks this question amongst others, and has no clear answers for all.

It takes a stance that is far different than the previous two films that I’ve watched.  Instead of focusing on a specific time frame and critiquing the system there, it takes stab at our entire viewpoint of what happened.  It’s potent stuff, very angry and reminding us all that history isn’t made by those that dies to create it.  Instead we try and place ourselves at the forefront, heroes of a massacre that never soiled our clothes.

There’s an economy of plotting that seems to be symbolic of the way their films are made.  A TV host decides to have a program highlighting what happened during the revolution against the Ceausescu regime 17 years ago and invites two participants to speak about their experiences.  What happens is the stuff of comedy gold and righteous anger.  Neither one of them has taken part in the revolution, because they would have been dead.

This is a film that has no specific viewpoint to press on us.  It’s angry and questions the whole system that allows one to become dominant over the other.  Both of the supposed survivors are  not bad people.  But are clearly taking advantage of a situation presented to them and intend to go as far with it as they can.

Callers send their thoughts to the show debating what really happened and the role that they had to play.  In their minds, did they really take place in the revolution or were they just trying to benefit from the after effects?  Again, the movie has it both ways.  They clearly cared about their country but might have been too drunk or too complacent to really make a difference.  Do we really need to build heroes up around what survivors we have in order to strive forward?

Aside from the questions that director Corneliu Porumboiu asks, I have to commend him for his satirical tone taken throughout the piece.  Time and time again he sets up situations that highlight the strange level of hypocrisy that is coursing through the country.  No one is interested in taking specific blame for allowing the Ceausescu regime to have power as long as it did.  At the same time, everyone is willing to step forward and claim themselves a hero after the regime has long fallen into the earth.

Porumboiu highlights this, and other thoughts, in a very funny tone.  He shows us a child playing a musical instrument on the side of the road.  The music he is making is horrible, and grating to my, and the characters, ears.  Instead of examining his own playing, he sits there and takes apart his instrument, looking for flaws in the structure.  Clearly my own actions can’t be to blame if the system is faulty.

He takes aim at his fellow filmmakers as well.  Much like the child, each seems to be willing to forgo the aspect of human choice and instead focus on how the system ultimately corrupts all.  There’s a sequence where a student is filming band practice with a camera in a cinema-verite style.  One of the characters comes in, hits him on the head, and tells him to put the camera on a tripod.  New and exciting measures notwithstanding, there’s a lot to be said of acknowledging what works and not being different just to be different.  This has been a complaint that I’ve leveled against the other films for their hard lined shaky-cam sense of direction.  Perhaps the old ways are the best ways.  He utilizes them with steady, unwavering shots that stare directly at the characters and question their motives as much as the audience is.

But they may not be.  As callers come pouring in the guests are left defending their actions on that day.  They either were or weren’t getting drunk.  They either were or weren’t sitting at home until it was safe to go outside.  What were they doing?  No one can really say, and the information that we have from the participants is less than trustworthy.

So why is historical revisionism necessary?  We need to be the heroes.  Even if it means forgetting some of those that sacrificed themselves to ensure a better tomorrow.  But is this the best way?  Some of the characters long for the days of the Ceausescu regime and the money they were promised.  All of history will be viewed in rose-colored glasses at some point.

12:08 East of Bucharest is a film that understands this completely.  It’s also a comedy, and unlike The Death of Mr. Lazarescu manages to earn some laughs that are not at the expense of others.  The whole damn system is rotten.  Let’s keep rolling at it until someone decides that all of history is important, not the tiny roles we all play (or pretend to) along the way.

12:08 East of Bucharest (2006)

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu.
Written by Corneliu Porumboiu.
Starring Mircea Andreescu, Teodor Corban, and Ion Sapdaru.

Posted by Andrew

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