I'm in Bucharest for a few weeks because of the Tuck Global Consultancy. I was really excited for the trip mostly because I've never been to a former communist country before and I'm fascinated by the cultural battle that is waged between the old centrally planned and largely bland architecture/television/movies and the newer market types. Preparing for the trip I watched a few Romanian films to try to see what kind of art the country creates.
The most overwhelming feeling I got from the films was a profound sense of powerlessness and frustration. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu brings this powerless home in the overburdened and overwhelmed health care provided by the state. Watching the plot unfold, you realize there is no quick fix to the devastation done to this country over during their 44 years under communist rule. I felt the same thing when I was watching 12:08 East of Bucharest, a film which discusses whether or not citizens of a small city on the outskirts of the capital participated in the 1989 revolution. It seems that the film's characters are desperate to have participated because it will mark some sense of control in the matter. We are given the overwhelming indication that no such revolution took place in the town. Lastly, Childern Undergroud is a profound movie detailing the absolute hopelessness of the homeless child population in the city. Often blissfully unaware of the absurdity of their existence, the children in the film are as young as eight. The culprit is once again found to be the devastation left by the communists.
All of the films were wonderful, and the artistic quality gave shape to the sense of Romania's uniqueness as an island of Latin in a sea of Slavic. I wonder if Romania will be able to channel this uniqueness into the sort of energy we've seen out of the other recent admits into the EU. I'm confident that something along these lines will happen, and I think it will be fun to watch over the next decade.