Tyro Romanian helmer Gabriel Achim follows the fortunes of a scrawny worker-safety engineer over the course of a fateful day in the ’80s-set black comedy “Adalbert’s Dream.” Achim shoots in Academy format to match the 16mm and videocamera ratios of the government films-within-the-film concocted by the hero and his division, who blame the workers themselves for all industrial accidents. “Dream” eschews the distanced absurdism of much Romanian New Wave fare, embracing the scramblings and limitations of a purely proletarian p.o.v. — depicting the shady dealings, barters and compromises required for survival in a repressive society. Satiric slice-of-lifer could spark arthouse interest.
Unprepossessing-looking Iulica (Gabriel Spahiu), through optimism, opportunism and a lively sense of humor, has navigated a narrow margin of freedom between the demands of his worrywart wife (Alina Berzunteanu) and the assorted pitfalls of his government job. He has forged a strong relationship with his young son, and picked up a sometimes-mistress (Ozana Oancea), the victim of a mishap he visually documented. Additionally, at work, he has managed to get on the good side of his boss (Doru Ana), who gladly turns a blind eye to his workmen’s various sidelines and irregularities – as long as his own ass is covered.
A propitious day dawns on May 8, 1986, awash in the euphoria of Bucharest’s miraculous soccer victory over Barcelona to cinch the European Cup, Iulica following the action on tv and making a tape for his boss on his contraband VCR. But the day also marks the 65th anniversary of the Romanian Communist Party and the unspooling of two films Iulica has created for the festivities. His boss is anxious to prescreen Iuica’s work to certify that it’s free of Party-deviant content. But a series of comic detours prevents the duo from any preemptive measures and the screening proceeds apace.
One of the offerings, which includes the camera zooming in on a woman applying makeup, staring into a mirror with accident-damaged, mismatched eyes, comes off like a weirdly experimental version of the dry, affectless reconstructions of casualties seen in the actual government films that helmer Achim intersperses throughout. Iulica’s other effort, fancifully called “Adalbert’s Dream,” casting a woman with a mustache in the title role and featuring an enormous tool floating midair, represents a deliberately arty variation on the industrial safety film and proves an unexpected, potentially disastrous hit as workers explode in gales of laughter.
But before the outraged VIPs can respond, a brand new accident galvanizes the factory and Iulica’s team swings into action to restage events, very much in the vein of Lucian Pintile’s 1970 Romanian masterpiece “The Reenactment.”
From the grainy tv-coverage of the soccer game, the black-and-white clarity of the government safety films, the hand-held chaos of as-yet unedited workplace disasters, to occasionally surrealistic, folk-tale imagery (a fox, grabbed by its tail and instantly “skinned” while entering a henhouse), “Dream” examines the various modes of representation during the last years of Ceausescu’s reign where any attempts to accurately record events were strictly verboten.