Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Closer to the Moon", a meta-satire of communism in Romania, 1959, based on true documentary filmmaking

Closer to the Moon”, the Romanian satire of Communism, in English, by Nae Caranfil, gets its title from a visual metaphor at the end.  The “criminals” could serve their death sentence by being shot out to space and being astronauts for the last few hours of their lives (don’t ask Matt Damon). 

The film has a complicated meta-plot, one of the most clever of all time.  As the film begins (in Bucharest in 1959), a “Zionist” group pulls off a bank heist by telling bystanders they are shooting a movie.  The group is known as the Ioanid Gang. Later, the government wants to make a documentary about the heist (layering two levels deep), and approaches a witness to the event, Virgil (Harry Lloyd). Vera Farmiga and Mark Strong lead in the film. 
The film, in the middle section, rehearses the history of anti-Semitism in Romania.  At one time, the Jews has seen Communism as a ticket to liberation from the Nazis.  Jews were often officials in the early communist governments of eastern Europe.  But as the 1950s progressed, anti-Semitism returned to the communist satellites.

So one of the points of the bank heist had been to fund resettlement of some more people to Israel. The film is said to be based on true events.

There are plenty of lines making fun of Marxism, such as the idea there is nothing to steal in a communist society because nobody has or owns anything. 

I recall the mid-term exam in US Government class my senior year of high school (January 1961, right before the Kennedy inauguration).  The exam had one essay question, compare “Communism and Democracy”.   After 9/11, all the conservative pundits wanted to compare religious theocracy with “democratic capitalism”.

Yet, I’ve met people (including women) who claimed to be communist, with some pride.  One resents the unification of Germany and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The official site is here  (IFC and Sundance Selects).

Although there is a lot of lightweight popular and jazz music in the score, there is an effective use of the opening of the Symphony #3 in F Major by Brahms at one point.
The film can be rented from Netflix or from Amazon Instant Play ($3.99).

Wikipedia attribution link to photo of Bucharest Arch of Triumph by Alexandra Belu, under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 License. 

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