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Tales of the Golden Age (2009)

Amintiri din epoca de aur

Starring:

Alexandru Potocean

Avram Birau

Diana Cavallioti

Emanuel Parvu

Ion Sapdaru

Liliana Mocanu

Paul Dunca

Radu Iacoban

Tania Popa

Teodor Corban

Viorel Comanici

Virginia Mirea

Vlad Ivanov

Directed by:

Hanno Höfer

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 155 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Country: Romania

Tales of the Golden Age is a series of short stories connected to the daily lives of the inhabitants of Romania during the disastrous Communist Dictatorship of Niculae Ceausescu. The stories are based on urban myths that floated around at the time, telling tales of the comic, bizarre and the everyday, which were used by the people to keep their humour and humanity alive. You don’t need to know much about Romanian history to appreciate this movie. Ceausescu is Romania’s Dictator and therefore the main villain, The Party are the bureaucratic heavy arm of the Dictatorship and the ordinary people are the good guys, who either grumble their way through or cope in their own way.

This is a collection of five stories that depict the harsh and often ridiculous times under Communist rule – three are funny and two are dark dramas. The comedy includes exploding pigs, petty party officials and never-ending merry-go-rounds. Never raucously funny but gentle and often touching. There are also dramatic tales of normal people who tried to make it through this tough period by illegal means – stealing chicken eggs and glass bottles. Sad and poignant but never straying into melodrama or darkness. There is the usual post-Communist nostalgia but also examples of what happened when one would get on the wrong side of the big man. Each story is nicely tied off with a lesson about ‘The Golden Age’ – a title bestowed upon itself by the regime.

The humour and heavy drama do, at times, sit uncomfortably together. With the first two stories being quickfire humorous anecdotes, you are set up for comedy, and then with the third story, a drama about an egg thief, I searched for the laughs when there weren’t any to be found. It can take a while to catch on. Some of the straight stories are a little overlong and overpower the funnier parts of the movie in the battleground for your longterm memory.

It's Got: Gentle humour, tales of a different era, humanity

It Needs: An equal measure of comedy and drama.

Alternatives:

Disco and Atomic War, Good bye, Lenin!, Sun Alley

Summary

This easily accessible film about a dark period in Romania’s history is interspersed with warm humour, drama and food-for-thought throughout.

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