During the summary trial that he and his wife were submitted to, Nicolae Ceausescu is reviewing his long reign in power: 1965-1989. From a formal point of view, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu proves that it is possible to only use existing images to yield films focused on recent history, yet with an epic vein similar to that of the historical fiction cinema. This is an eminently syntactic endeavor, where montage plays a twofold part: mise-en-scene, as it builds scenes that do not exist as such in the rushes, and classical editing, connecting scenes together. Written by
Cannes Film Festival
Autobiografia lui Nicolae Ceausescu (2010) is a feature-length documentary derived only from archive footage, from images mostly taken by official camera crew of Ceausescu. It covers the years of Ceausescu reign, between 1965 and 1989. From the footage and camera angles we can easily understand that in most of the occasions more than one camera were used for documenting, and that cameramen were given a broad freedom, even shooting the most intimate moments of the Ceausescu couple.
The role of the director here is mainly to edit the images which are mostly arranged in chronological order, but this is where the brilliance of Andrei Ujica starts to shine! He implements wonderful editing skills, often using montage technique to enrich the narrative. Moreover, in most cases shot/reverse shot is brilliantly used as if this is a well-designed fiction.
For me, this phenomenal documentary, among other things, presents two main issues to remember. First, it shows how the life and people of Romania were seen by a president. How a president lives and how he perceives his country visually. This is because the lens of the camera in most cases can be metaphorically leveled with the eye of Ceausescu. That is why the title of the film is so ironic! We all know that the conditions in Romania were not the same with the images documented by Ceausescu cameramen. And second, it sadly presents how this big communist utopia, this all-happy-people real communism slowly vanishes. It is sad because initial happiness of people really looks like was coming from the heart.
In conclusion, this is a must see documentary, a real cinema pleasure, which bears a potential of numerous discussions, not only about Romania or the so-called communist bloc, but also about the nature of governing and making history.
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