The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu

   ,
  12:30 p.m.
   Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu opens with footage of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu at their trial in 1989, just before their execution. The couple is exhausted, but defiant. “I will only answer to the Grand Assembly,” Ceaușescu says, “whatever your masquerade is.” “It was your masquerade twenty-five years,” his unseen questioner retorts. Andrei Ujică’s biting film documents that masquerade. In this montage of clips from Ceaușescu’s official filmed record, there is no sign of Romania’s mass poverty or the countless sick and abandoned children who were the product of Ceaușescu’s laws against contraception. Instead there are cheering crowds, grandiose building projects, meetings with international figures like Charles de Gaulle and Jimmy Carter, and Ceaușescu’s obvious fascination with the obsequious political theater of Mao’s China and Kim ll Sung’s North Korea. At moments, the happy veneer wears thin. The audio from a live broadcast of the 1977 earthquake records the collapse of a crowded concert theater. A courageous Communist official refuses to vote for Ceaușescu’s reelection to the Twelfth Romanian Congress. For most of the film, however, the viewer will detect smaller fractures of the myth in the managed footage. A crowd of young people clowns around rather than listen to a Ceaușescu speech. Workers in a store applaud mechanically beside goods that were shipped in so that Ceaușescu could be filmed inspecting them. Ujică chillingly reveals, without comment, the manner in which a dictator constructs, and comes to believe in, his own cult of personality.