what was the bad old Romanian intelligence service willing to do for the sake
of power? The answer is deceptively obvious, but it will be obscured by layers
of meta-reality or un-reality in Tom Wilson’s The Bucuresti Experiment (trailer here), a documentary,
mockumentary, or something in between that screens during Panorama Europe at
the Museum of the Moving Image.
this day, the “truth” of the Romanian Revolution is clouded with uncertainty
and dogged by conspiracy theories. According to commentators assembled by
British ex-pat Wilson, the secret police read the tea leaves and realized
Ceausescu’s days were numbered. To maintain their positions of privilege, they
would have to adapt to capitalism, but the average Romanian’s brains were too
thoroughly conditioned by socialism. A little mental re-alignment would
therefore be necessary.
Romania’s leading captain of industry, Andrei Juvina, was the first to undergo
the “Bucuresti Experiment.” However, it seems the clinical trials changed his
personality, slowly rupturing his relationship with college girlfriend, Carmen
Anton, a former Romanian teen idol. As the film progresses, Wilson focuses more
on their personal issues, building up to their climatic reunion. However,
Wilson springs a surprise third act-coda that completely alters our perception
of the film, restoring it to the ranks of straight talking documentary exposes.
the risk of being spoilery, the
Romanian intelligence service was capable of far worse crimes than simply
making future oligarchs adept at business.
Frankly, the real reality will make viewers somewhat ashamed they bought
into all the meta-meta narrative game-playing. Yet, Wilson is remarkably
sure-footed building the ostensive drama throughout his set-up. In fact, there
is something particularly moving about the charismatically mature Anton’s performance
the film’s ultimate gravity, Wilson’s liberties with the documentary form feel
rather disconcerting in retrospect. Yet, there is definitely something to his
larger point. In former Communist countries like Romania (and Lord knows Russia
too) there have not been the sort of truth commissions and legal tribunals
necessary to expose and bring to justice all those complicit in the crimes of
the Communist regimes.
Bucuresti Experiment is likely to stir contradictory responses within most
viewers, but it is a challenging film, produced with a serious purpose in mind.
At a succinct sixty-eight minutes, it is also a decidedly less taxing exercise
in post-modern historical analysis than most of the doc-hybrids playing at another mini-fest now underway. Recommended for the intellectually adventurous, it screens
tomorrow afternoon (4/13) at MoMI, on the concluding day of Panorama Europe.
Labels: Documentary, Panorama Europe '14, Romanian Cinema