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
"The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu" is an audacious, and to my eye very successful, way to tell a story. I should say to show a story, because nothing is told. No context or viewpoint is provided, other than the camera's. The filmmakers have drawn on a rich video archive concerning Ceausescu and Rumania from 1965 to 1989. No opinions are explicitly offered, and no history or explanation provided, beyond what the camera sees. And the camera sees a lot. As with the footage in Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia," the images are quite arresting, and one really doesn't want to move one's eye away from what the camera is seeing. I would offer three pieces of advice about the film. First, go and be prepared to supply your own context. I'm a historian and fairly wonky in these matters, but even so, it took me a good few minutes to get accustomed to the idea that the film's narrative was going to be simply what the camera was showing. I suspect this will catch many viewers by surprise, and it's better to know it in advance. Second: go with an open mind. Ceausescu is a controversial character. It pays to put your viewpoints aside --not forget them, just suspend them-- while you are seeing the film. And finally, by all means go. This is audacious storytelling and great cinema. The effort you expend on this journey will certainly be rewarded.
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