Reconstruction (1968)


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Reconstruction Movie Reviews

Amazing film within a film about the misuse of power

It is a matter of highly disreputable concern that this sublime film directed by Lucian Pintilie is not so well unknown globally.When a great film like this remains unknown for whatever reasons what hurts the most is the fact that an opportunity has been denied to viewers to watch,understand and appreciate a rewarding film which proffers a multiplicity of interpretations.Reconstituirea is without an ounce of doubt one of the boldest East European films which challenge the repressive hegemony of a communist state albeit in a very circumspect manner.Although punishment or to be precise reeducation of two young boys remains the film’s central theme there is also some benign overlapping of many life affirming themes and situations such as first love,friendship,sacrifice,pain,suffering,indifference etc.Lucian Pintilie came into international prominence as Reconstituirea was applauded at Cannes Film festival in 1968 but as it was critical of communist party establishment,Pintilie was banned from traveling to France. This was the high price audacious film makers like him from East European countries had to pay in the past.

More than a radical with a camera

NOTE: This film was recommended to me by Brian Risselada for “Steve Pulaski Sees It.”

Lucian Pintilie’s Reconstruction is among one of the most unique films I’ve seen when it comes to inciting social commentary about an abusive, authoritarian society, in addition to being a film incorporating some original and layered sound and visual aesthetics, as well. It’s a film centered around a filmmaking crew, who, instructed by the Romanian government, are working on an anti-alcohol/alcoholism video involving the same two students who got into a fight after having a bit too much to drink. Despite the fact that the crew are working on a mountain near a river, a series of different figures and locations are shown to give us a feeling that other areas are nearby that are just as effected by some sort of authoritarian interference as the folks tasked with shooting this film.

At various different points of the film, we see such things as an industrial railyard, rural life with an older woman attending to geese, an urban locale, and even a beach showcasing a more tropical atmosphere. Pintilie is also sure that during these deviations in setting, we don’t always hear appropriate sounds pertaining to the location, which allows him and his crew of sound editors to toy with the different regions and create asynchronous background noise for many of these scenes. The result is quite unforeseeable, as even more established filmmakers don’t always know how to adequately implement this nor do they even find themselves taking those kinds of risks.

Also implemented are a variety of montages, both conventional and dialectal, so seamlessly crafted they’d make Sergei Eisenstein blush. While Eisenstein incorporated those revolutionary cinematic tactics to instill some sort of propaganda or grandiose message about government control, Pintilie metaphorically finds himself ripping up celluloid in order to give us something welcomed and different in Reconstruction. Pintilie works to establish the use of montage and jump-cuts in a way that intersects beautifully with the recurring theme of a manipulative ruling class that shows his prose as a director rather than a radical with a camera.

Where Jean-Luc Godard radically rebelled against aesthetic conventions of French traditionalism in the 1960’s, Pintilie seems to subtly manipulate to the point where he tricks you into thinking you’re simply watching another film until you really zero in and notice that the aesthetics have played you. Where Godard altered and chopped up a conventional narrative, Pintilie alters in post-production and creates a fabulous film rebelling against authority, working under an unfair regime, and many more things I’m not quite sure I adequately understand or can summarize. What I can say, however, is that Reconstruction is a curious, almost fully subversive, work of cinema.

Starring: George Constantin, Emil Botta, George Mihaita, and Vladimir Gaitan. Directed by: Lucian Pintilie.

Reconstituirea, 51 Years After

Watching Lucian Pintilie’s ‘Reconstituirea’, filmed in 1968 and distributed in 1970, is for me a reunion with this film, after 51 years. I was, in 1970, among the lucky cinephiles in Romania who got to see the film at the only cinema in Bucharest where the screening was allowed. The re-viewing confirmed my opinion held during the 51 years that have passed since then, based on the strong impression that the film made on me at my first watching. ‘Reconstituirea’ is a unique film, completely different from everything that had been done before in Romania, it is an infusion of truth in a cinema suffocated by propaganda, it is a film that assimilates creatively much of what was created valuable in the world cinema in the previous decade . Much of what followed in the Romanian cinema before but especially after 1990 has its starting point in this film. The fact that it was banned after a few weeks of screening, that it was pre-empted from being screened at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, and that it was hidden from the audiences until the fall of communism is not surprising. Its topic related to the life of the young generation in a bureaucratic and totalitarian society is perfectly in sync with the protest movements of the youth around the world in 1968 when it was made.

(For the English speaking movie fans – the title of the film is better translated into ‘The Re-enactment’ rather than ‘Reconstruction’ as translated on IMDB)

The story takes place on the edge of a mountain town, near a stadium. Two young people, Nicu (Vladimir Gaitan) and Vuica (George Mihaita) are brought with the militia van to film the re-enactment of an incident that took place a week ago, at their high school graduation party. Intoxicated by alcohol, the boys got into a fight, destroyed ‘public property’ and injured a waiter. They are actually free, but they are not told that from the beginning, to serve the ‘educational’ purposes of the film. The characters around them are a human micro-cosmos of a part of Romania at that time: a semi-illiterate militiaman (Ernest Maftei), a prosecutor who keeps those around him in fear but who has his own personal problems (George Constantin) , an alcoholic teacher, hit by destiny, a complexed and marginalised intellectual (Emil Botta), a beautiful young girl who tries to enjoy life (Ileana Popovici). The two young men are obliged to reconstitute a violence that is not in their character. Fear is invisible but it determines their actions. A small incident of youth turns into a case that can destroy their lives. The noises in the stands of the nearby stadium can be heard constantly. At the end of the match, the crowd leaves the stadium. The simulated violence has tragic consequences.

The censors had good reason to be shocked by this film, which is subversive on several levels. The screenwriter Horia Patrascu and the director Lucian Pintilie did not make any concessions. The characters are presented in their true light, intellectually limited, with atrophied moral senses, mimicking a legal and educational process that hides repression. The world of young people is opposed to the generation that has already learned to cope with the system, but it is also devoid of hope and moral compass. The crowd coming out of the stadium is frightening with their faces, prejudices and a lack of understanding of what is happening. The pretext of the film in the film is used brilliantly, and the title itself, ‘Reconstituirea’, identical to Virgil Calotescu’s propaganda film made nine years before about the case of heist from the National Bank, alludes to the use of cinema as a propaganda tool. The wonderful team of actors creates some of the best roles in the film careers of each of them. The reunion with ‘Reconstituirea’ 51 years after the first viewing strengthened my opinion that this film is the formative work of Romanian cinema, a film that integrates perfectly among the best works of film art of the late ’60s. By cutting the access of this film to the audiences in Romania and world-wide, the communist censorship of the time determined that it should remain a singular masterpiece, instead of creating, at that time, a remarkable Romanian film school.