Alexandru Belk: “Metronome is first and foremost a film for audiences born after 2000”

Alexandru Belk, winner of an award at Cannes for directing Metronom in the Un Certain Regard 2022 section, gave an interview to Cinemagia about his film, which was shown in Romania in the fall of 1972. The film was warmly received by Cannes in the international press. The film will be shown nationally at TIFF, during Romanian Film Days, on June 23, at Unirii Open Air Square. Here are the director’s answers to film readers.

The heroine of the film is Anna, a 17-year-old teenager, who discovers that her boyfriend will flee the country for good in a few days. The two lovers decide to spend their last days together. Broadcast by Irina Margherita Nestor who was about the film, to Cinemagia readers, Alexandru Belc’s first feature film, Metronom, is even more disturbing in the second view, for details of time, for scenography (Bogdan Ionescu), flawlessly shot By Theodore Bandoro (PDO and MRI, by Christian Mungio). Vlad Ivanov’s play is accurate and frightening. I taught how to intimidate a teenager (Mara Bugarin) into becoming a whistleblower, with all the necessary blackmail! It freezes you. And you wish history would never repeat itself. He deserves another gobo.”

1. A prelude to making a movie set in communism, I can even say in its “glory years,” how much do you see as essential to today’s youth audience? Is there a story to tell here? Let’s keep in mind that there are also voices, even among young people, that show nostalgia for communism. Do you intend to dispel the myth that “Communism was better?”

Alexandru Belk: The metronome is, first of all, a film for the younger generation, for an audience born after 2000, for whom “communism” is just a concept, a small part of history learned at school. It was not my intention to deconstruct myths, but rather to present reality, as I see it, to present a universal love story, placed in a precise historical context which I have also studied. There are certainly many stories to be told, historical memory must be preserved by all means, and the film is a very good tool with which we can do that. I’ve tried to be as historically honest as possible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a dose of subjectivity. In the end, like young spectators, I didn’t live those times either, I discovered them reading and talking to people who shared their experiences with me.

2. What made you choose the early seventies? Many recent films have dealt with the last years of communism, before the revolution, when living conditions were getting worse and repression stronger. I also think about the fact that that period was seen as a relatively good period for communism in Romania.

Alexandru Belk: We started from the Metronom program, from Radio Free Europe, from the character Cornel Chiriac and the influence he had among young people in Romania in the 1970s. I am so interested in the idea of ​​freedom conveyed through music, I wanted to make a movie about the generation of the seventies, about young people who breathed a little freedom. Or so they thought—the July 1971 theses were already beginning to show their effects.

3. What is your personal memory of the communist period? Do you find anyone close to you in this movie? We know that at that time, many young people – and not only – were listening to Free Europe and felt closer to freedom.

Alexandru Belk: I lived nine years in communism, the last, the ugliest and the darkest. I have strong memories of that time, the best atmosphere in my family, the whispered conversations, behind closed doors, video movie nights, where several families gathered in front of the TV, Kubrick’s movie Spartacus.

4. The synopsis shows that the movie has a dramatic note – it’s about fleeing communist Romania, a fact illegal at the time and very dangerous. Did you also suggest a comic note/that Comic Relief is somewhere in the movie, like in the feature film Hawaii, with Dragoș Bucur escaping with a balloon painted Ceausescu, so that the security guards aren’t shooting the balloon anymore?

Alexandru Belk: This may have been a factor explaining why they performed poorly. I tried to make a love story, I saw through the eyes of a teenage girl who had just found out that her boyfriend was leaving the country for good. Watching her emotional journey, I tried to make every scene serve that purpose. I tried not to make a movie about communism, I avoided the clichés visible at the time. Metronom is a love story, a film about maturity, about the opportunity and creativity of young people, set in Romania in the 1970s.

5. Among the films set in communism, there are those who condemn the system, and others who view life as it was, of which the communist regime was a part. How do you know your movie?

Alexandru Belk: My movie is made of separation. I am talking here, of course, of a historical separation. However, I think you can’t make a movie about communism without somehow condemning this system. But I did it not with passion, but with speed.

8. What is your relationship to the music of those years? Because it was obviously one of the few ways to feel global and access global culture, being in a closed country.

Alexandru Belk: First of all, the music of the 70s meant freedom. Music is perhaps one of the few ways in which young people feel a sense of belonging to something greater, which is a sense of having access to something beyond the confines of the closed world in which they find themselves. Music encouraged rebellion and revolution and encouraged young people to have a voice and be heard. Through music, they were promised a world that belonged to them, in which they could find themselves.

Portrait image copyright Alexandru Belk: Ionu Russo

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