Romanian film review – You Are Ceauşescu to Me & The Hole
Still showing in cinemas, Pentru mine tu ești Ceaușescu/ You Are Ceauşescu to Me is one of the most interesting releases of the year. Sebastian Mihăilescu’s feature debut, a mix of documentary and fiction, is basically the making-of of a film about young Ceaușescu before he rose to his later prominence.
A series of non-professionals take turns in playing him in an audition as a young man from the countryside sentenced to prison for Communist propaganda. The actors are so young that their experiences and memories of the time before 1989 are second-hand, there is enough distance to make them approach their character with ease, curiosity, and sometimes even a hint of empathy, trying to understand his actions by also revealing something about themselves in the process.
But the dictator is not the focus of the film, its protagonists are. Mostly teenagers, the group of young men and two women also get acquainted with each other, and their interaction becomes just as fascinating to watch as their take on Ceaușescu. There is one exception, a man in his early 30s with pretty strong convictions (to say more would be a spoiler) and thus the most confusing one, both for the audience and his colleagues. Whether this was intended or not I cannot say, but it does create some tension, to unnerving effect.
Mihăilescu’s film is not always coherent, although its jagged structure is also set by its concept, and at some point I was not sure how open he communicated his intentions to his protagonists, but what it does well is play with metafiction and the interaction between film(making), history, truth, and myth. Carefully and beautifully shot, its main achievement is to shine a light on a lesser known part of Ceaușescu’s life (amazing how there is always more to learn about someone discussed so extensively) and its genuine interest in the young.
Not a Romanian production but too much of a rarity not to recommend is Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il buco/ The Hole. Frammartino’s films are truly original in the non-cliché way, there is nothing like them out there. He observes a community or a person in their living context and the passing of time and seasons. If this sounds dry or pretentious, it is anything but, there is wonderful beauty in the gentle, perceptive, meticulously composed documentaries, a playful tone, with very, very funny moments.
The hole of the title is a massive cave in rural Calabria, southern Italy, which is explored by a group of speleologists. Based on the true events of 1961, the film shows how the work of the visitors from the north intertwines with the daily rhythm of the small mountain community.
The Hole does not quite reach the revelation of its predecessor, the extraordinary, also rural-set Le Quattro Volte/ The Four Times (2010), but it is still a wise, timeless, humanistic film full of small wonders. After its national run, The Hole is still showing in Cluj at cinema Victoria.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com
Photo info & credit: To Me You Are Ceaușescu @cinemagia.ro