adrin neatrour writes:A film made out of the ordinary everyday elements of the social matrix: a drunk, an old man in his ‘70’s, a second rate journalist. A film uses these elements to initiate a process that engages with the historical myth pertaining to what happened in Romania on 22nd Dec 1989.12:08 East of Bucharest – Cornelieu Poromboiu Romania 2006 – Mircea Andreiescu- Theodor Corban – Ion Supdaiu
Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle UK 13 Jan 2008. Ticket price £4-00
In Bucharest the snow quickly turns to black slush
A film made out of the ordinary everyday elements of the social matrix: a drunk, an old man in his ‘70’s, a second rate journalist. A film uses these elements to initiate a process that engages with the historical myth pertaining to what happened in Romania on 22nd Dec 1989.
Poromboiu’s East of Bucharest (EB) provides us with a continuous strip of action, over the period of a day, comprising the preparations for and the enactment of a TV chat show. The stream of action allows the actors no escape from envelopment in time: the day unfolds, shot mainly in wide, and the film in the first section cuts between different situations but without montage per se, without cuts within and between actions. Poromboiu does not use editing techniques as his source of tension in EB, i.e. juxtaposition of shots to create energised action image links between images. EB is not a film of ‘image’. Poromboiu as director works to devalue image as a source of filmic information in EB and to enhance the meaning of time.
Every aspect of the film from its desaturated low contrast colourisation its ‘found’ framing and shot composition work against the primacy of the image in the production of EB. What is central to EB as a formic process, is that it is a film taking place within and through time. The endemic tensions within EB emanate from forces released and worked through by the film, both in picture and in sound, that are generated by the propositional question: was there or was there not, a revolution here in our small Romanian town? And it is, as this proposition is examined in the ‘real time’ filming of the chat show that the tension is expressed, released and compressed within the dialogue. The tension comes from within the process, which is humorous but relentless in its discipline and leaves us with a final picture of Mr Manescu one of the two participants in the chat show with his head totally bowed down, bent at the end of the process in which he has valiantly participated. But we also know that this Mr Manescu from the incidents of the day that have informed us about him. Mr Manescu is no stranger to humiliation, it is one of the ways in which he copes with life. He will recover and continue as if nothing has happened. So one way there is no humiliation as an event there is only the continuing process of Mr Manescu’s life. There is no image of humiliation rather an embraced ritual, a recurring process repeated endlessly. There was no revolution. Simply a man with a bent head. This is not what the picture says.
Looking across the current filmscape it is unusual in my experience to view a film that does not engage in the explicit exploitation of visual images. Most European films are in thrall to a specific visual culture reliant on the excitement of visual stimulae and on retinal pornography. A culture whose touchstone is the advertising industry which comprises of the worlds: of enflamed desires of iconic brands and of associative psychic linkage to self image/identity. An industry that is founded on the manipulation and twisting of human needs (that it describes as freedom of choice for the consumer). An industry that has developed slick marketing machine to deliver the products which feed the artificially created needs. And at the centre of this business is the image.
Many of us have passed formative years experiencing a Pavlovian conditioning through our exposure to our visual commercial culture. We have been conditioned
like the great man’s dogs to slobber at the chops when presented with the right stimuli. An image is worth a thousand words. A smiling woman with white teeth and blond hair holds up a pack of Kellogg’s cornflakes. We desire to possess what that image represents, But the logic it also works in a sort of reverse sense. We see an emotive image – perhaps of suffering, a child in the final stages of malnutrition – which triggers another set of emotive judgemental reactions related to our internalised self image. The problem is that image when wrenched out of context and detached from processes becomes open to manipulations and desires. Image in Western culture over determines reactive relaxes at the expense of understanding processes through time.
Poromboiu has understood this as a problem. His response is not to have one set of images replace another, but rather to make a film in which time is the principle agent forming the structure of the film. Everything in the film points to time. It’s in the title. It’s set on the day of the anniversary of the ‘revolution’. The question in relation to the revolution is defined strictly in terms of time, which of course a joke, and the film takes place through real time experience of the chat show.
In EB Poromboiu seems to suggest that the Romanian revolution belongs in that category of events that may be called trance. The image is of the revolution that took place in the squares of Romania but the temporal stream opposes this image. The revolution took place in a trance. The violent events in Timisoura started a process that was broadcast by the media to the people who were entranced by the images that were relayed to them. They understood that with the sudden downfall of Ceausescu that a revolution had taken place. But they were in trance and very little had actually happened outside of the image of the dictator and his wife being executed. The image was of crowds gathering in squares and calling for the overthrow of the regime. But it was mostly an image a comforting illusion based on the simple device of reversing cause and effect. There was no revolution so of course when the crowds dispersed and went home little had changed. Without Nicholas and Elena in fact the same people continued in power using similar but slightly modified methods. The people, by and large absent from the revolution came out of the trance and continued with their lives much as before.