The stark poetry of Radu Jude’s documentary startles with an incongruent beauty and intimate horror. As the unearthed archive of photos from Costică Acsinte’s Foto Splendid studio—depicting the daily life of Romanians from 1937–1945—drifts across the screen, national anthems and politician’s speeches play. Interrupting the mysterious pleasure of these crisp, yet decaying photographs whose subjects—despite their staging and posing—appear to exude an unvarnished frankness, the narration of a Jewish physician’s first-hand account during those same years details the apocalyptic reality of the vicious plague descending upon the Jewish people. “So much darkness in this hateful century” writes Emil Dorian as only glimpses of the pogrom—a spate of fascist salutes, for instance—appear in Romania’s stoic face for the camera. The negative transference of Jude’s discordant audio/visual history, as a nation’s outer appearance masks its inner decay, eerily reflects the division between Christians and Jews deepening into a frighteningly grotesque chasm. Like the photographs’ decomposition which occasionally allows only eyes or a mouth to remain visible, the doctor describes the corrosion of humanity steadily eating away at Europe, one that also distorted and dissolved a nation’s very memory, which, for its citizens to carry on, seems to have been extinguished even before its formation.
Also screening as part of the Cinema of Resistance program.