I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS (Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari)

(director/writer: Radu Jude; cinematographer: Marius Panduru; editor: Catalin Cristutiu; cast: Alexandru Dabija (Movila), Alex Bogden (Traian), Ioana Iacob (Mariana Marin), Serban Pavlu (Stefan,Airline Pilot), Ilinca Manolache (loyal member of the stage crew); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ada Solomon; Big World Pictures; 2018-Romania/Germany/Bulgaria/France/Czech Republic-in Romanian with English subtitles)

“A brilliantly conceived film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Radu Jude (“The Dead Nation”/”Scarred Hearts”) has constructed a brilliantly conceived film that has a radical young theater artist, Mariana (Ioana Iacob, her first starring role), a stand-in for Radu Jude, planning to reconstruct on stage an historical event from 1941, during which the Romanian Army carried out ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front. Mariana was given a government grant to make the film. She uses mostly amateur actors while shooting for an accurate re-enactment of the Odessa Massacre – in which Romanian soldiers slaughtered tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews. She continues the controversial production despite being pressured by officials of the municipal government to curb things when realizing that her production is critical of Romania’s role during World War II.

Movila (Alexandru Dabija, a theater veteran) is a cagey nervous city official of the municipal government who granted her funding but now urges her to be politically correct and be assertive against the Soviets rather than her country as he worries her production will bring about a backlash among the Romanians that will only scare the children and stain the reputations of her country’s war heroes. His presence at the rehearsal leads to debates with her over such things as bigotry and censorship.

The slow moving film responds fully to the titular quote made as a political speech to the Council of Ministers in the summer of 1941 by the Romanian dictator Marshall Ion Antonescu. It tells us that the unrepentant dictator aligned his country with the Axis from 1941 to 1943, and that the result of his reprehensible speech was that it started the ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front and was the precursor to the Holocaust. In 1944 Romania switched sides and fought against the Nazis. In 1946 the dictator was executed for his war crimes, as he offered no apology for his above quote and welcomed the slaughter of some 400,000 Jews and Roma. But the ugly past has been revised and in today’s Romania the martyred Antonescu is well-regarded and Romania’s bloody 1941-43 alliance with Nazi Germany is for a large part of the country only a repressed memory.

The idealist Mariana aims to stage her fact-based production in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest for the public to see it, as she’s followed around by a hand-held camera as she diligently rehearses on the grounds of Bucharest’s National Military Museum.

Mariana’s days are spent busy choosing the right uniforms, coaching her non-professional re-enactment ensemble cast while also settling disputes among cast members who believe her play is unpatriotic, finding authentic guns that look scary and sound right, and so on. Her nights are spent in her apartment reading and researching for the play. She also has a married airline pilot boyfriend (Serban Pavlu) lover drop by for a night visit, whom she fears might have knocked her up.

The challenging experimental film is one that smartly uses archive newsreel footage (showing Romanian Jews murdered), photographs of the war, literary quotations and dialogue containing critical political theory.

The not too subtle film, a most provocative truth-telling one debunking the Holocaust deniers, offers an ingenuous and unsettling history lesson that lets us know that anti-Semitism is still deeply ingrained in 21st century Europe. That would be hard to deny if you follow modern-day current events and see the rise in hate crimes against Jews in both Europe and America. 

REVIEWED ON 2/23/2020  GRADE:  A