Three Days Till Christmas explores end of Ceausescus
by Stefan Dobroiu
19/06/2012 - One of the Romanian productions with a national premiere during the Romanian Days at the most recent Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF) (June 1-10) was Radu Gabrea's Three Days Till Christmas (Last Days in the Life of Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu), a docudrama that explores a very well-known period in Romanian history, but one that has thus far been little documented, namely the story of the Ceausescus.
Played by Constantin Cojocaru and Victoria Cocias, who won a Special Mention from the Romanian Days jury lead by French film critic Michel Ciment, the Ceausescus are always the centre of attention during the 90 minutes of Gabrea's film, which combines re-enactments with interviews from those involved in the dictators' flight from Bucharest on December 22 until their execution on December 25 in 1989.
Although very interesting for international audiences, as Gabrea tries to examine the dictatorial couple with an impartial eye, Romanian viewers might not prove so objective, as the film's information source (two books written by screenwriter George Cartianu) and a still uncertain domestic release date may bring heated debate. The award at TIFF was also surprising for the festival's audience, who considered Cocias and Cojocaru's performance as exaggerated and fake.
In terms of directing, the film's problem lies with its combination of documentary and long re-enactments. With such an interesting source of information, Three Days... would have been much more convincing either as a biographical film (but made with a considerably larger budget) or a traditional documentary. If the purpose was to inform, the initiative is a failure, as the most (historically) relevant parts of the film are the disappointing re-enactments.
Produced by Gabrea's Total TV, the project received a €180,000 grant from the National Film Centre in 2010.