The Gopo Awards, the most important gala for the cinema industry Romania, lie a few weeks back (March 24, to be more precise) but I've recently stumbled on the list of the winners and remembered having waited the entire year for one of them to hit the cinemas. The fact that it hasn't yet is a disgrace but I do hope the Gopo award will change that soon because this one is a real treat and anyone interested in ingenious moviemaking and Romanian recent history should write Experimentul București/The București Experiment on their 2014 must-see list.
Tom Wilson, a Bucharest-based British director, has the audacity to take two incendiary Romanian communist history, brainwashing experiments and the infamous experiments at the prison in Pitești, during which political prisoners were used as guinea pigs for psychological experiments, and combining them in a highly entertaining film.
The premise is more than intriguing: apparently the Securitate knew that there would be a coup d'état in 1989 and started to prepare the path to capitalism by brainwashing socialist citizens into perfect capitalist entrepreneurs. The film tracks down the first experiment 'object', Andrei Juvina, who had become a successful business man, and his then girlfriend Carmen Anton, a former pop singer who didn't taken part in the Bucharest experiment. Their re-unification after more twenty ears builds up to an emotional climax and the film does not stop here but gathers even more speed and steam.
Without disclosing too much and because the internet has already done it extensively, I can tell you the film is a mockumentary, i.e. a 'fake' documentary but I couldn't say more without spoiling too much of the surprise. Suffice it to say Wilson's film is a documentary, a love story, a brilliantly ingenious fictional plot, a suspense film and, last but not least, a musical tribute to the hilariously cheesy pop of the 1980s. And all wrapped in a funny, clever mix with a serious twist.
The București Experiment is not without its flaws though, and the last part, even if it has the strongest impact, is in fact its biggest problem, being a major shift in tone and feels frustratingly underdeveloped. Nevertheless, The București Experiment contains a mind-blowing twist and you have to admire its makers for not shying back from the cruelest of historic topics and the most amusing cinematic tricks. Nice job, Mr Wilson!
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]