April 23, 2008
Orienteering (Concurs), 1982
Set in a company-sponsored orienteering contest - a false peril, team-building competition that pits administrative departments against each other in navigating their way out of a vast, public recreational park in the least amount of time by locating a prescribed series of trail markers using only the provisions and equipment provided to them at the start of the race - Dan Pita's Orienteering (Concurs) chronicles the adventures of a group of functionaries who, cajoled by their ever-obliging supervisor to enter in order to curry favor from their superiors, have reluctantly agreed to take part in the competition. From the onset, the group's ability to participate is already cast in doubt when the supervisor's wife feigns illness and immediately withdraws, leaving the rest of the team scrambling for a last minute substitute. Enlisting the aid of a young man (Claudiu Bleont) who, because of his small frame, fits the wife's track suit (and who, coincidentally, had just arrived to the park on a bicycle only moments before the team's bus), the team begins its journey through the woods, led by the imposing, if ill-equipped supervisor. But as the team invariably finds itself hopelessly lost, depleting their limited provisions, chasing personal distractions, squabbling over responsibility, and running in literal circles in the thick of the disorienting forest, frustration soon turns to distrust at the stranger whose resourcefulness is now viewed as a ruse in an elaborate sabotage. Funny, whimsical, and densely metaphoric, Orienteering is as equally potent as a wry allegory on the Ceauşescu regime under the thumb of Soviet-era communism as it is an acutely observed satire on the petty dynamics of office politics. Capturing the base instinct, incompetence, misdirection, and deflection of accountability innate in the false, surreal atmosphere of a contest, Pita exposes the myth of collaborative teamwork in the everyday conduct of intrinsically competitive - and self-preserving - sociopolitical institutions.