This film attempts to paint a portrait of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu simply by assembling and editing together excerpts from something like 1,000 hours of official footage. Because of the way it is assembled – just this footage, no talking heads, no narration, no obvious message – what you make of this movie appears to be entirely up to you. Though I believe that the director reveals his own views subtly, mostly through his use of audio, whether you believe this portrait is sympathetic or critical depends on what you bring to the film – and that is as it should be, I guess – as no context is provided for what you see. If you don’t like dictators (like me) you may find that this portrait is critical. If you know virtually nothing of the man (like me) you might find the portrait sympathetic.
This is obviously a very challenging approach, but it mostly works. It’s a long – the 3 hour runtime might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the 1000+ hours of footage it was culled from but it’s awfully long for someone who has no pressing interesting in Ceausescu – and it’s perhaps a little too obtuse for its own good. But it demands to be thought about as few other documentaries do. It also suggests an alternative approach for filmmakers in an age where nearly everything is filmed.
Anyway, it’s hard for me to think ill of something like this, even if I, as someone who knows nothing about Romania, could have used more background. (After all, I often complain that there is too much background in American films about major figures so I guess I shouldn’t be a hypocrite, especially given that this film was made for a Romanian audience.)
- Directed by Andrei Ujică
- Running time: 187 minutes
- Country: Romania
- Language: Romanian