April 22, 2008
The Paper Will Be Blue, 2006
A droll and acerbic fictional corollary to Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica's Videograms of a Revolution, Radu Muntean's The Paper Will Be Blue, like Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is an odyssey through the crumbling institutions and broken social systems of a country in the throes of precarious transformation. Set on the evening of Nicolae Ceauşescu's fall from power after going into hiding in the wake of widespread anti-government demonstrations, the film follows the overnight patrol of a militia unit headed by the diligent and fatherly Lt. Neagu (Adi Carauleanu) who has been dispatched to the suburbs to spot check vehicles on the main roads in order to prevent protestors from making their way to the cities. At first, the unit passes the hours uneventfully, using the roadblock as a ruse to chat up young women driving alone at night rather than as a deterrent to keep away agitators, until a group of protestors arrive at the checkpoint with the news that the television station is under siege. Overcome with patriotism and a sense of impending history, Neagu's young recruit, Costi (Paul Ipate) impulsive decides to abandon his post and join the troops in defending the television station from apparent terrorists, leaving Neagu and the rest of the unit to try to track down the errant recruit before the end of their shift in order to avoid harsher punishment (and perhaps cancel New Years Eve leave passes) from headquarters. From the jarring, chaotic opening image of a civilian and a militiaman being accidentally killed in a barrage of confused gunfire from an apparently mistaken command to shoot (after haplessly emerging from an armored car to smoke a cigarette), Muntean illustrates the integral role of communication in the events surrounding the Revolution of 1989. Framed against Costi's idealistic attempt to defend the television station as the symbolic last bastion of a collapsing, old order, the siege is emblematic of the critical struggle over the control of information itself, where modern day victory lies, not in the occupation of physical spaces, but in invisible - but powerful - airwaves.