The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu Screen 8 articles

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu

2010

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu Poster
  • The only form of overt editorial comment Ujica allows himself, indeed, is occasionally cutting out sound entirely, drawing attention to the hollowness of the propagandistic footage. Everything else is done with juxtaposition... What results is overwhelming in scale, but consistent as a whole: this is what nearly 35 years of power looked like, but only if you weren't paying close enough attention.

  • What Ceausescu wants us to see, the filmmaker implies, is simply the highly positive, pageant like presentation of a public life being a public servant, public symbol, public regular guy (“son of Romania”), public expression of all that is great and wonderful about Communist Romania. Thus, in its careful excisions and ellipses, in its control and precision, in the “realism” of these filmic records, in its use of everyday material to reach to something greater, it is, as hoped, public poetry.

  • Little more than a barrage of vainglorious speeches, gaudy processions and precisely orchestrated state visits, it’s similar to watching one of Leni Riefenstahl’s documents of Nazi excess in that the specific intentions of the footage take on a radically different meaning when viewed from an unforgiving historical remove.

  • Ujica’s elaborate, deceptively simple soundtrack is another. So much of the film is silent that the heightened sound design used throughout lends certain moments a surreal underpinning... In heightening the soundtrack in such clearly artificial ways, Ujica doesn’t take us back to the vital moment so much as reiterate how constructed these moments are, even as they make claims to untarnished authenticity.

  • Ujică's wordless editing technique says it all. In much the same way that Romanian cinema of late has offered an embarrassment of riches, 2011 has seen no shortage of strange, exceptional documentaries—The Arbor and Nostalgia for the Light in particular—and yet this film is unique even among that esteemed company for its formal rigor and politically charged but silent air.

  • "Symbolism may be good in the arts but it's worthless in economics and politics," blathers the lifelong Party animal [Ceauşescu], who of course used symbolism to maintain his ruthless and devious rule. Ujica's film reuses footage that was nothing but an attempt to symbolize success—as desperation-inducing as it is to watch, one can only imagine the film's effect for someone who experienced the reality firsthand.

  • ...“The Autobiography” is as monumental as it is ephemeral, rich with gallows humor, and not without a certain ghastly pathos as Romania’s maximum leader comes to seem the solipsistic star of his own reality show.

  • The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu does not provide any new information to those who remember these events. What it does do is reveal the self-perception of one of the world’s most repressive absurd dictators. And it does so through showing, in intimate detail (the footage is absolutely extraordinary), his public appearances, his speeches, shaking hands, kissing children...

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