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The film is an adaptation of a novel by Marin Preda, a controversial novelist who died during the Communist rule soon after the book was published. It tells the story of an intellectual, professor of philosophy whose life is crushed after he is imprisoned on false accusations at the end of the Stalinist era. Basically the first part of the film tells the story of his fight for survival in prison, the second describes his tentative to regain his life after being released. His release is actually only apparent, Romania of the 60s asks from him different types of compromises and crimes, but yet his fight for survival is as tough morally as in prison.Written by
A great novel by one of Romania's greatest writers was adapted (read: inevitably simplified) after the fall of Communism to make a film about how tyranny destroys people and ideas. The critique of early Communism published in that novel during late Communism was a sensation back then in Romania, and who knows if Preda wasn't actually aiming at the regime as a whole.
The all-star cast carries the film, headed by the formidable Stefan Iordache (one of the greatest actors ever), although the script has some plot holes or poorly explained transitions, and some characters are less complex than in the book. But the issue with adaptations is that a novel could never be transferred on screen and still keep its level and amount of insightful exploration, so we don't have to compare adapted movies to their literary origins.
The film is heavy and dark due to its tragic and awful subject, and also to its cinematic tone. Still, the most horrid aspect of that story is the almost general filth of selfish compromise which, despite appearances of social success sometimes, has actually destroyed the souls of so many around the main character. Thus, in this respect, he may really be the most beloved man on earth (as in the film's ironic title), because he at least tried to remain true to himself. 'If there were no love, there would be nothing'... This famous quote about love adapted from St. Paul was another slap in the face of an atheist, absurd, egotistic and cruel regime.
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