Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Romanian director Cristian Mungiu has followed his Palme d'Or winner, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, with a portmanteau film containing tales of Nicolae Ceausescu's communist government that have now become folklore. The last 15 years under Ceausescu were some of the toughest in recent Romanian history, but the party insisted on referring to the times as a golden age. The film takes a satirical tone that is highlighted by a brilliant credit sequence that looks as if it's been designed in the Eastern Bloc, with heavy fonts, drab colours and clean lines. Mungiu, who wrote and produced the film, directs one of the segments; four of his fellow nationals directed the others. Most of the time, films made up of shorts are incredibly uneven, with widely differing aesthetics and tones that reflect each director's individual taste. What is surprising about Tales From a Golden Age is how remarkably consistent each section is; they are similar almost to a fault. Each story is a surreal reflection of the 1980s in Romania, especially the charade and pretence that kept society ticking along as the economy crumbled. The best tale is the first one, in which a small town expecting a visit from a high-ranking Indian official sacrifices its traditions to keep the local party official happy. The final segment, The Legend of the Air Sellers, about empty bottle vendors, is very funny.
Tales From the Golden Age screens today at 9pm and Friday at 3.30pm at Cinestar 4, Marina Mall.