Film review: The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, the dictatoraa‚¬a„¢s fictitious response to his capitalist indicters

Newsroom 29/10/2010 | 15:30

Romanian director Andrei Ujica’s three-hour attempt to reconstruct the fallen dictator throws the viewer into Ceausescu’s propagandistic universe without too much fuss or introduction. The short episodes created during Ceausescu’s life follow one another as abruptly as his glory, sometimes bringing sadness, other times awe and on occasion even pity.

If the Romanian ruler had had a right to reply during his trial in 1989, this would probably have been it, as the documentary takes the viewer through some of communist Romania’s most memorable events, including visits from Richard Nixon and Charles De Gaulle, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu’s encounters with Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Carter, Mao Tse Tung, Leonid Brezhnev, Alexander Dubcek and Mikhail Gorbachev, Ceausescu’s famous visits to North Korea and China and behind-the-scenes looks at his daring, but mostly hubristic, architectural projects, such as the House of the People.

Ujica’s motivation behind his tremendous effort of viewing over one thousand hours of footage, which produced a documentary with a running time of three hours, lies, he says, in his desire to better understand the dictator “whom I struggled all my life to avoid”. The movie is, therefore, therapy for the once young rebel from Timisoara, an attempt to humanize or make sense of a too-often absurd leader who occasionally had notable moments of lucidity. One of these, presented in the documentary, was Romania’s refusal to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Socialist countries in 1968.

At the start of the discussion with the Romanian director which followed the pre-premiere of The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, many members of the audience said that they almost felt sorry for the dictator. Yet, as Ujica concluded, if the same technique of zero intervention from the director in the times’ propagandistic material had been used in Hitler’s case, he too would have seemed more human.

 

Corina Dumitrescu

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