Outstanding Emotion Saturated Film Maintains A High Artistic Level Throughout.
Director Robert Dornhelm refrains from pointing a moral within this extraordinary film, based upon actual events and persons, that depicts the initial frenetic days during which anti-Communist revolutionaries caused the fall from power of Roumanian President Nicolai Ceausescu in December 1989, yet at one point a character remarks that "we have forgotten how to think", and this drastic failing is a most significant factor behind the capricious actions of many of those involved in the Roumanian people's uprising. Dornhelm, who was born in Timisoara but raised in Austria, was a childhood friend of Dominic Paraschiv, and following the latter's death, returned to the city of his birth in an attempt to discover what he could about Dominic, referred to during the course of the Revolution as the "Butcher of Timisoara", charged with murdering 80 or more freedom fighters; to the mind of Dornhelm, this is an obvious exaggeration or, perhaps, a complete fabrication. Felix Mitterer is featured as Paul Weiss, surrogate for Dornhelm, and additionally co-scriptor, his role being a member of a Red Cross team sent to Timisoara in order to remove Paraschiv into safety within Vienna, but Paul quickly discovers that, as a friend of Dominic, he is considered as an associate of a "terrorist", mass murderer, and foe of a state reborn, with this absorbing narrative following Paul's struggles against uncaring bureaucrats, (not so) former Securitate (Roumanian secret police) functionaries, and hostile or indifferent international journalists. Actual footage of the massive demonstrations and of the grievously wounded Paraschiv is seamlessly merged with staged sequences, producing many visually memorable sequences that reveal the potential birth of a revolutionary sensibility that, sadly, is more challenged by its customary subservience than by any likelihood for fresh governance. Intentionally fragmented at times, the film's storyline nonetheless is essentially linear as Weiss, accompanied by a sympathetic Austrian journalist, Clara Weber (Viktoria Schubert), searches for some truth in the matter of Paraschiv, stubbornly going beyond reasonable limits, battling as well against vicious interference from Securitate members who intend to impede Paul in his efforts. Clara is in Timisoara in hopes of developing a pleasant Christmastime story connected with Dominic but naturally begins to have grave doubts of his being "a hero in a city of heroes", a city having no one in control and tormented by sniper fire from renegade Securitate agents who, simply by affixing armbands, are theoretically transposed into proletarian members of the anti-totalitarian revolution. However, following a meeting with Paul and Dominic's wife Codruta (also seen later by actual footage following her husband's passing), Clara begins to discount generally accepted opinion that this Catholic politically liberal chemical engineer, thoroughly devoted to his family, would abruptly become a homicidal berserker. Tenuous and unnatural alliances are made and soon ended, with a viewer left to ponder over who may comprise the small bands of armed men fighting with each other in Timisoara, since it is apparent that they may not themselves know, for it is made clear that television reports from neighbouring nations are more confusing than informative. Emotionally moving footage is incorporated of Paraschiv upon his deathbed as he avers that "we will only win with love and kindness", a signal moment in this documentary tinctured film, made with commendable skill by all involved, of a society's only tentative collapse. This is an Austrian-made production with dialogue in German in addition to occasional Roumanian, English and Magyar, with accurate English subtitles throughout, and there is a fine descriptive score from Harald Kloser. The work benefits from excellent direction, design, acting and photography and a DVD version would be of substantial value.
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