Synopsis

The Great Robbery isn’t this one.

„The Great Communist Bank Robbery” (2004) is a documentary made by Alexandru Solomon in which he creates a reconstitution – we’re talking about another kind of Reenactment –, using all sorts of archive materials, the testimonials of close friends and the torturers’ testimonials who took part in the case.

The Great Communist Bank Robbery - documentary by Alexandru Solomon - CINEPUB

Director: Alexandru Solomon
Scriptwriters: Alexandru Solomon
Cast: Victor Rebenciug (voice), Mihai Călin (voice), Ozana Oancea (voice), Sandu Mihai Gruia (voice)
Producers: Tudor Giurgiu, Serge Lalou
Produced by: Libra Film, Les Films D’Ici, ZDF/ARTE, BBC, France 2
Cinematography by: Constantin Chelba
Film editing by: Sophie Reiter
Sound: Dana Bunescu, Viorel Dobre
Year: 2005
Category: documentary
Duration: 85 minutes
Subtitles: English

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PLOT SUMMARY

In 1959, in Romania, six former members of the nomenklatura and the secret police organize a hold-up of the national bank. After their arrest, the state forces them to play themselves in a film which reconstitutes the crime and the investigation. At the end of their trial, filmed live, they are sentenced to death and executed. A month later, the film „Reconstitution”, made by Lucian Pintilie, was released and became a sensation throughout the country. After 40 years, Alexandru Solomon retraces this incredible story.

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Solomon succeeds in leading the documentary’s storyline by using all sorts of cinematic means. He uses images from the film directed by Virgil Calotescu, whenever he needs a background for his subjects’ stories and, also turns to the people’s memories who were personally involved in the life and process of the “bandits”. We are talking about ex-police officers, investigators, old neighbors, old friends who escaped Romania during the communist regime or even close family members. Each memory carries a different and unique story, though lacking a huge amount of subjectivity.

Even though the documentary uses talking-heads, the audience doesn’t get what he hopes for – glimpses of truth. However, the subjects offer prefabricated ideas that seem very familiar, just like they were read out loud on some prompter back in the days.

In „The Great Communist Bank Robbery” the testimonials aren’t there to show who’s the guilty one, but to emphasize an enormous lack of humanity, a success of communist propaganda, a union of forces, a common thought that says „corrupt and decomposed elements” don’t deserve to have a consistent story.

Reviews:

„Apparently, Solomon is not only addressing an international audience unfamiliar with Romanian history, but also one more interested in mysteries of fact than of history or philosophy. Most of his film’s screening time is dedicated to setting things right that are wrongfully implied by Reconstruction. (…) But Solomon centrally seeks to retrace the story of the robbers. Why would anyone want to steal money that is worthless outside of Romania and impossible to spend in Romania without blowing one’s cover?” (Konstanty Kuzma, eefb.org)

„To give the filmmaker even more credit, he also tackles a sadly still problematic historical aspect in Romania, namely the state’s persecution of the Jewish community. The detail of the robbers’ religious identity is revealed subtly, catches the audience completely off-guard and eventually builds up to a saddening climax.” (Ioana Moldovan, romania-insider.com)

Awards:

  • November 2004: Prix du Film d’Histoire, Festival du Film d’Histoire, Pessac, France.
  • April 2005: Best Director, Hungarian-Romanian Dok Festival, Sf. Gheorghe, Romania.
  • May 2005: Grand Prix, Mediawave Gyor, Hungary.
  • May 2005: Prize for Social Values, Documenta Madrid.

Media articles:

  • The Great Communist Robbery (Mihai Grecea) – aarc.ro
  • Romanian film review: Where the truth lies- Alexandru Solomon’s “Great Communist Bank Robbery” ( Ioana Moldovan) – romania-insider.com
  • A Bit of Truth Through Much Conjecture (Konstanty Kuzma) – eefb.org