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My Name Is Adam

Another Eastern European meditation on the bad old days of communism, Romania's "My Name Is Adam" comes saddled with a portentous narrative so opaque as to be virtually impenetrable. Though it seems to have much to say, pic's off-putting mode of expression will likely keep its career limited to fests with high tolerances for indecipherable Balkan symbolism.

Another Eastern European meditation on the bad old days of communism, Romania’s “My Name Is Adam” comes saddled with a portentous narrative so opaque as to be virtually impenetrable. Though it seems to have much to say, pic’s off-putting mode of expression will likely keep its career limited to fests with high tolerances for indecipherable Balkan symbolism.

An opening title announces a voyage into the ideas of Mircea Eliade, but what follows has little evident connection with the celebrated anthropologist and mythographer apart from a vague suggestion of incidents and actions following circular patterns, which might be seen as an illustration of “the eternal return.” Mostly, though, the cerebral approach simply flies against standard dramatic interest and comprehension.

Set during the ’50s, when the infamous Securitate habitually detained and tortured artists, tale begins as famous cellist Adam (Stefan Iordache) is hauled in for interrogation. The charges against him, if there are any, are never detailed, but that’s much in keeping with a film that offers far more psychological murk than political clarity.

Most of the story spins kaleidoscopically among incidents Adam remembers and others he invents to confuse his interrogators. Some of these belong to his youth; among the more arresting are various scenes in a brothel, which at least have a dark sensual allure, even if the metaphor for communism they offer is one of the hoariest around. Pic’s way with themes of memory and identity is likewise old-hat.

Helmer Dan Pita affects a style that’s overheated and nightmarish, but hardly new. While various Eastern European directors lately seem to havedecided that Felliniesque phantasmagoria best conveys their historical moment, “My Name Is Adam” suggests that the approach often risks being read as obfuscatory, whether deliberate or not. At any rate, it is now a regional cliche that grows more tiresome with each new appearance.

Pic’s gloomy, drab lensing accords with its general tone. Other tech credits are adequate or better.

My Name Is Adam

Production: A Solaris Film (Bucharest) production. Directed, written by Dan Pita.

Crew: Camera (color), Dan Alexandru; editor, Cristian Ionescu; music, Adrian Enescu; sound, Sotir Caragata. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 27, 1996. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Stefan Iordache, Marius Stanescu, Irina Movila, Cristian Iacob, Costel Constantin, Mihai Calin.

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