Thursday, December 23, 2010

21 years later: videograms, Pitești & the man from the balcony

music: Bright Eyes - No One Would Riot For Less

I've missed Andrei Ujică's Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu at TIFF this year. I had a free ticket, but on that last day of the festival I didn't have three hours to spare anymore. And now I guess I'll just have to wait for the DVD to come out.

Before putting together footage of Ceaușescu and turning it into a critically acclaimed film, Andrei Ujică collaborated with Harun Farocki and gave us the videograms of a revolution: Videogramme einer Revolution. I caught it on tv last year, and now I've seen it again on You Tube (if you're in Bucharest you can see it on the big screen too).

Videograms of a Revolution, part 1:


*****

Cei care au tremurat, au gemut, au urlat și s-au renegat sub loviturile lui Țurcanu își aduc fără îndoială aminte de o scenă din ziua de Crăciun 1949, în închisoarea de la Pitești, la câteva săptămâni de la începutul reeducării. În camera 4 Spital, plină, de dimineața până seara, de țipetele celor torturați, domnește o liniște neobișnuită. De vreo două ore, Țurcanu stă la fereastră, privind cum ninge. Fiecare își ține răsuflarea. Victimele lui Țurcanu ar trebui să fie cât de cât mulțumite: orice clipă în care el este absorbit de ninsoarea de afară este o clipă câștigată asupra chinului, dureriii, fricii. Și toți doreau ca această uimitoare, mută contemplare să se prelungească. Dar, în același timp, așteptarea devenea intolerabilă, amplificând parcă în imaginație torturile ce aveau să vină. Aceste două ore, în care Țurcanu a stat imobil la fereastră, au părut tuturor celor ce se aflau atunci în camera 4 Spital interminabile. Și deodată, ieșind din această visare ce nu-i sta în fire, din această stare în care nimeni n-avea să-l mai surprindă vreodată, Țurcanu s-a întors spre deținuți și a exclamat: 'Bandiților, din cauza voastră nu pot fi eu azi, de Crăciun, cu nevasta și cu fetița...' Pe nevastă o chema Oltea, pe fetiță, la fel. Și Țurcanu, fiorosul Țurcanu, sadicul Țurcanu, torționarul Țurcanu pentru care semenul nu părea a fi decât un teren de experiențe spre a determina pragurile de rezistență dintre viață și moarte ale corpului, pragurile dintre ființă și neființă ale sufletului, Țurcanu era -- se pare -- cel mai duios tată de pe lume.
(Virgil Ierunca, Fenomenul Pitești)

Last week I read Virgil Ierunca's Fenomenul Pitești, which left me with this overwhelming sense of... doom. Sometimes, I really can't wrap my mind around this whole concept of dictatorship and the inability of a people to overthrow it. I mean, the dictator and his supporters are just a small fraction of a people - why are we so quick to surrender and let ourselves paralyzed by fear? And what happened in the prison from Pitești is even more difficult to understand, mainly because all the prisoners had one common enemy: the Communist Party. Couldn't Țurcanu tell the communists that he would apply their torture methods, but instead let all the prisoners know what the situation was and organize an escape? (I am naive, I know, I know.) Unfortunately, this man chose to be a torturer. If Țurcanu were as intelligent as they say he was he should have realized he was nothing more than a pawn, and the minute he was no longer useful, the Party would get rid of him, which is exactly what they did.

As for the method of torture for which Pitești infamously became known, it is the most cruel and sick thing out there. Sadly, applying it is so simple... If you're familiar with the Stanford prison experiment, you can understand why in a real prison, during a communist regime, the victims that later became torturers did the things they did.

That sense of doom I mentioned earlier was also given by the sudden realization that all this could happen again, at any time. The current political climate in this country is perfect for a dictatorship (the only thing that keeps us safe from that is the fact that we're an EU member state, I guess). The voters are sickened by anything that has to do with politics and they don't even go to vote anymore, they're angry but they rarely protest, the media are not the watch dog they should be (they're more like a harmless puppy). So, when the entire country suffers from political apathy (of which I'm also guilty), politicians do whatever they want. When and if we wake up from our apathy, I'm afraid it's gonna be too late. But maybe I'm just being paranoid, and things will get better, who knows? Believe me, I'd much rather realize I'm being paranoid than being right.

*****

This morning, a man jumped off the Parliament balcony. (The AP story at NPR.) It was an extreme form of protest, I can't deny that, but that gesture revealed a cruel reality: it takes sth like that to get the attention of our politicians. And that just to get their attention, because it's not like they're going to take any measures to improve our living standards. No. For that to happen, we need some fucking riots. "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." (I haven't seen V for Vendetta yet, but I've come across this quote quite often.)

Udrea, who was clearly taken aback by what had happened, told journalists they shouldn't politicize this event. Are you kidding me? It doesn't get any more political than this. This man knew exactly what he was doing (he took a major risk, but I'm sure he knew that jumping off that balcony wouldn't get him killed). If you really want to kill yourself you won't do it during the Revolution days, in the Parliament, with a political message on your t-shirt. Besides, the personal is political, and the political is personal. I wish this man's gesture wouldn't be in vain... I wish ppl didn't dismiss this as just the act of a troubled person and they would at least realize that what he did was not just for himself -- it was for all of us. I hope he gets well soon.

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