'Somnul insulei' ('The Sleep of the Island') is a film that looks today quite tired. Sleepy and tired. It is to some extent a combination of the time it talks about (the Communist dictatorship period) and the time it was made (a few years after the fall of the Communism). Many of the exiled artists - including film makers - who flew from Eastern Europe returned after 1989 to their countries of origin trying to re-build their careers and artistic paths. Some of the resulting movies were remarkable, and this one had in it the promise and premises but does not completely deliver. It does reflect however a mood and a state of mind and the life experience of director Mircea Veroiu and of the author of the book the film is inspired from, Bujor Nedelcovici. The themes of exile, return from exile and relation between the artist and a repressive system are actually part of their biographies.
Writer Daniel Raynal (Ovidiu Iulian Moldovan) returns after many years in exile to the island state whose Governor and his acolytes control every move of their citizens and every detail of their lives. We are not told too much about the reasons of his return - idealism? longing for his friends and young years? He tries to make a difference and to fight the system. He soon will learn that his friends changed, and in time will realize that for an individual there is no other way but compromise or death.
The distopic view is supported by a visual conception that combines the claustrophobia and misery of the lives of common people with the megalomaniac spaces of the Governor's palace. The director used the spaces inside the huge palace built by Ceausescu in Bucharest in the last decade of his rule, then deserted before becoming part of the House of the Romanian Parliament of today. Unfortunately good ideas of the film and the fine acting of such great artists as Mircea Albulescu are annihilated by the poor technical means the Romanian cinema had to work with in the early 90s, and by the lack of skill in story telling which makes the whole film look sleepy, with unintentional relation to the title. The good ideas and and some memorable lines and situations are not enough to make of this film good cinema.
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