Romanian film review – Teenage rebellion in times of repression: Metronom
Metronom is Alexandru Belc’s third feature and first fiction project. Much more ambitious and polished than his documentaries 8th of March and the lovely Cinema, Mon Amour, it stumbles in places, but is also one of the most beautiful films of the year, and definitely one with the best soundtrack.
The latter is thanks to the radio show that gives the film its title. In the late 1960s, Metronom was a very successful music radio show. Cancelled in 1969 after playing, among others, The Beatles' Back in the U.S.S.R. following the invasion of Czechoslovakia, it was relaunched on Radio Free Europe after its legendary host Cornel Chiriac fled to Munich (where he was murdered in 1975). The show is both the trigger of the film's plot and the heart of its loveliest part.
A group of highschool fans write a letter to Chiriac that they intend to send to Germany. The intermediary will be Sorin, who will pass it to a foreign journalist, before leaving the country with this family, much to his girlfriend’s sadness, solid student Ana. When she decides spontaneously, against her mother‘s permission, to join the house party of the more rebellious Roxana, hoping that Sorin will also be there, it all goes downhill. The party is broken by the police who has been informed of the letter, arresting all kids under the accusation of plotting against the state, threatening them with a ruined future unless they name the responsible party. Ana, though the least involved of all, turns out to be the hardest to crack.
Even when threatened separately by a higher officer (Vlad Ivanov in usual scene-stealing mode), she cannot break her own moral principles. As usual, the actor is excellent as a menacing guy playing suave, but as watchable as he is, the scenes with him are also the weakest. Him playing a rotten character has become a cliché, and the whole thing just drags. But Ana's decision is nerve-wrecking to watch, while the ending hinting at it is deceptively suppressed.
Nothing comes close to the extended party scene though, with the young protagonists dancing, talking, laughing, filling the space with joy against Metronom's classic hits. But when Chiriac plays The Doors' Light My Fire, it all really ignites. I was in awe at the film‘s premiere at TIFF and still think this is one of the most wonderful scenes in a Romanian film. Nothing comes close to its wonder afterwards; the drama is much more subdued, a bit too much for its own good.
Despite these missteps Metronom is beautiful, serene, and a moving tribute to youth and (surprising) grit. Mixing politics with coming-of-age is nothing new, but Belc does it very well, also by choosing to look at Communist repression from an era seldom considered; usually it is the 1980s that are shown in their terror. The film premiers on 4 November; make sure to catch it, this is one to watch on a big screen.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo: Still from Metronom, Metronom Facebook Page)