Reenactment/Reconstituirea (or, as it is featured on imdb, Reconstruction) is considered by Romanian critics to be the best film in the history of this country’s cinema. While Top Ten lists are admittedly wildly subjective, I don’t think anyone would dispute this particular ranking. It also shows up in every serious discussion on Romanian films, both here and abroad, and the more you read on this topic, the more frequently you’ll come across the title and its director’s illustrious name.
Every single Lucian Pintilie film is a beautiful work of art, but Reenactment is remarkable not only due to its artistic merits but also because of its position in the historical and political context. Pintilie has never shied away from spiky topics and had more than his share of problems with censorship in the communist era. Reenactment was no exception. Shot in 1968, when the regime was still relatively mild, it is a merciless criticism of repression, disdain for human dignity and misuse of power. No wonder it eventually tickled the censorship apparatus and was banned shortly after its release, only to be released again in 1990, after the fall of communism. As a historical document, this is a brilliantly subversive film and a breathtakingly brave one at the same time.
The film uses a self-reflexive basis for its message: when two students get a bit too drunk and misbehave in a pub, they are caught by the authorities and offered a milder sentence if they agree to reenact their brawl in front of a camera for an educational film on the dangers of alcoholism. And so the two young men, their prosecutor, a policeman and the film team head to the restaurant of a mountain town to make the movie. They are joined by an alcoholic professor and a mysterious, boyish young woman who frolics around in a skimpy bathing suit, causing even more commotion in the already tense atmosphere. Eventually, the shoot becomes really awkward before taking an utterly unexpected turn.
What may sound staged or high-brow is in fact a thrilling watch, holding the audience emerged in its dream-like reality while raising the tension to one of the most powerful ending scenes in Romanian cinema.
Reenactment is bold, tough and beautiful. Luckily the lovely cinema Eforie is screening the picture these days, so leave work early, skip any appointments you might have, postpone everything else and watch it on a big screen. You will be in awe.
And if there’s a pressing matter keeping you from doing this, do not despair. The film has been streaming online for a while, and YouTube hosts a good version with English subtitles.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, [email protected]