At Radu Maligan's 94th anniversary the family members and the former colleagues of the old man come to his birthday party. Everything gets complicated when half of the guests try to ...
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At Radu Maligan's 94th anniversary the family members and the former colleagues of the old man come to his birthday party. Everything gets complicated when half of the guests try to convince Radu to confess his sins to a priest, while the others think that no one should be forced to do something beyond their will.Written by
'Aniversarea' ('The Anniversary') was the first film that I have viewed last evening at the Romanian Film Festival organized in Israel these days. Filmed in 2016 and premiered in 2017, Dan Chisu's film was the last appearance on screen of the great film and theater actor who was Mircea Albulescu. He would leave this world shortly after the shooting of this movie and did not get to see it. I do not know exactly how many of the dozens of viewers in the cinema theater yesterday knew who was Mircea Albulescu, but for me this film means first of all the farewell film of this giant. But there are many other good reasons why 'Aniversarea', without being a masterpiece, is a movie that deserves to be seen.
45 years ago, Mircea Albulescu played the role of a communist politician whom the party had trusted with the management of a factory during the period of the takeover of power by the communists. The film was called "Puterea si Adevarul" ("Power and Truth") and it was a quite typical combination for the films of that period between communist propaganda and half-truths that scriptwriter Titus Popovici and film director Manole Marcus sneaked in managing to pass them through the censorship filters. Albulescu's role in 'Aniversarea' can be seen as a continuation or the closing of a cycle opened in "Puterea si Adevarul". Here Mircea Albulescu is Radu Maligan, a former Communist dignitary, head of the "services", the owner of the files containing the personal secrets of the "enemies" of the regime but also of his dignitaries, as everyone spied on everyone in that system. Now, at the age of 94, immobilized in a wheelchair, he spends his time listening to classical music and looking around without saying a word at what is left from the world he tried to destroy and rebuild. The whole family and a few former colleagues gather in his apartment located across the street from the main concert hall in central Bucharest to celebrate his birthday, but it could just as well be a funeral, as he just looks at them, refuses communication, without even a the tear flowing over his cheeks. The gathering resembles a "Godfather" style mafia encounter, but it is clear that the family and the surrounding world are in crisis and disintegration. The former communist dignitary at his old age is not only a witness who cannot or does not want to react, who refuses confession to the priests or to the psychoanalyst that family members prepare for him. He and the regime he represented are the source of the evil and of the moral disorientation that we are witnessing.
Maligan's family with its three or four generations is a microcosm of today's Romania, a society that seems to have lost its compass and is divided by larger or smaller conflicts. The main problem with the film is that writer and director Dan Chisu has tried to say too much, to collect too many interesting themes and cases in the same film. The gathering of too many topics in the 100 minutes of screening leaves the impression of a messy puzzle, without any of them receiving the in-depth treatment they deserve. Of all the themes that have been approached, the attempt to find religious beliefs as a possible alternative to delivering personal salvation or at least the comfort in face of death is the one that best passes the screen. It is also a more general subject and easier accessible to spectators who are not that familiar with Romania's history and politics. But even for this theme, too little time is devoted missing an in-depth approach, the dialogues between the priests and the psychoanalyst sound artificial and out of context, and the Orthodox-Catholic sub-conflict adds an unnecessary complication. The actors' performances are excellent, the film features a gallery of valuable actors, among which I would also mention besides Albulescu the excellent Razvan Vasilescu. Cinematography is uncertain, most of the filming takes place in the space of the same apartment, whose exact topography is not revealed to the spectators, but I could recognize the collection of objects specific to Bucharest apartments, with the mixture of the relics of the past and the technical gadgets of the present. 'Aniversarea' adds to a series of films made over the last decades describing Romania's long and painful detachment from a past that refuses to be left behind and whose tragic personal and social implications continue to be present until today.
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