A gripping drama that spans 30 years of recent Romanian history, “Betrayal,” which won the Grand Prix of the Americas at the Montreal Fest, is solid arthouse fare.
It opens in 1948, with anti-communist journalist George Vlaicu (very well played by Dutch actor Johan Leysen) writing a provocative article about the death of democracy in his country. For his pains, he serves 11 punishing years in a waterlogged prison cell.
In 1959, a smooth police inspector, played by Raymond Burr look-alike Alexandru Repan, offers him a deal: He can go free if he signs a weekly statement, but is guaranteed he’ll never have to reveal in these statements anything the inspector doesn’t already know. Reluctantly, he agrees.
Once out of prison, he finds and marries his former typist, Laura (Mireille Perrier), who, unknown to him, had herself been imprisoned for typing the piece he wrote. They have a son. He continues to meet the inspector once a week, but otherwise all goes well, and he’s able to publish poetry and is even acclaimed as the country’s national poet. But when a friend tells him he plans to defect and is killed soon afterwards, Vlaicu realizes he’s been used all along by the state, and starts making plans to leave the country himself.
Filmed almost entirely in Romania (apart from some scenes set in Paris near the end) but entirely spoken in French, this is a lucid and intelligent drama about the way a police state controls its artists and writers. It’s not as depressing as perhaps it sounds, and boasts fine performances as well as top-class technical credits.