12:08 East of Bucharest

Director:  Corneliu Porumboiu
Year: 2006
Rating: 7.0
Country: Taiwan

This Romanian film from director Corneliu Porumboiu is a slyly amusing deadpan look at the state of the country sixteen years after the revolution forced Ceausescu to leave power and brought an end to Communism. The “12:08” of the title refers to the time of day that Ceausescu announced he was leaving and the “East of Bucharest” refers to the location of the film. It is an unnamed small sized city that is unrelentingly drab and gray in the dull winter light. The anniversary of that day in 1989 – 12/23 – is being seized upon by a TV talk show host to ask the question whether this city participated in the revolution or whether it only celebrated the revolution that took place elsewhere in Romania.

His supposed guests all take a hike on the day of the show and so he has to quickly replace them with a school teacher who enjoys his drinking and an old man who used to play Santa Claus. The teacher tells how he and three other co-workers began the revolution in the town by going to the Communist headquarters to protest and getting into a fight with security, but soon calls start coming in saying he was actually drunk on the day and nowhere near the place. The old man begins his story of the day by talking about his now dead wife and the fight they had and the flowers he bought her – and the talk show host sinks lower and lower. It is quite funny in a gentle low key way, but one senses that behind the humor the director is asking his audience “where did the revolution go?” The final caller simply telephones to tell them that it is snowing outside – big lovely flakes and they should enjoy them now because by tomorrow they will turn to mud and this seems like an apt metaphor for the revolution.

Written up Oct 2006