Amintiri din epoca de aur (Tales from the Golden Age) (2009)




Director:     Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru.

Starring:      Diana Cavallioti (Crina),  Radu Iacoban (Bughi),  Vlad Ivanov (Grigore),  Tania Popa (Camelia),  Liliana Mocanu (Marusia),  Alexandru Potocean (The Secretary),  Teodor Corban (The Mayor),  Emanuel Parvu (The Party Inspector),  Calin Chirila (The Party Activist),  Romeo Tudor (The Shepherd),  Avram Birau ((The Photographer),  Paul Dunca (The Photographer's Assistant),  Viorel Comanici (The Party Secretary),  Ion Sapdaru (Policeman Alexa),  Virginia Mirea (Policeman's Wife),  Gabriel Spahiu (Neighbor).

personal history of the late Communist period in Romania


Spoiler Warning: 


The Legend of the Official Visit

A young man named Gheorghita speaks on the phone with the Party secretary.  Gheorghita is expecting an official inspection today and he wants to tells the party secretary what are some of the nice things they can show the officials.  Gheorghita says they have some nice cows, among other things.  He also tells the secretary that Comrade Mayor is on duty.  Gheorghita tells Mihaita to watch the phone for him for awhile.  He then goes over to the policeman Gogu to tell him that they need some pigeons.  This is because Comrade Sandu is doing an inspection of their place.  Gogu goes over to see Florica, head of a traveling fair.  He asks Florica if he still has his pigeons?  No, he doesn't.  He only has a parrot in a cage now. 

Gheorghita rides his bike around the Pioneer Youth camp and barks out orders to do this or that to make the place more presentable.  He tells the people that the motorcade will be here soon.  Gheorghita then goes over to speak with Comrade Mayor.  The two men talk about what they should do for the inspection.  Gogu shows up with some Cornish hens, but those are no good for the inspection. 

A young man looks through a window to peep at Florica's daughter Luminita.  Florica chases the young man away.  A car arrives.  Everyone has been lined up and they all now shout:  "Hurrah!  Hurrah!"  Two men get out of the car.  Comrade Sandu is the man they want to impress.  Sandu tells Gheorghita and the others to get rid of the cow and to move the amusement fair somewhere else. 

Gogu goes up to Florica to tell him to shut down his ride.  Florica asks him:  ". . .  then why did I bother coming?"  Gogu says it's an order from the Party. 

Sandu and the others have dinner outside on a long picnic table.  Gogu goes over to Florica again, this time to tell him to bring his group and Luminita to play and sing for Sandu.  His band comes over to the picnic table and Luminita starts singing to the men at the table.  All of a sudden Sandu gets a call.  When the phone call is over, Sandu tells everyone that the visit has been cancelled.  The officials are going to a different town for an inspection.  Someone asks about what should be done with the carousel?  Sandu shouts:  "We'll all take a spin on it."  The carousel consists of seats hanging on long chains that go round and round while being raised higher and higher into the air.  Sandu keeps saying that everyone has to get on the ride.  Comrade Mayor has a weak heart and he doesn't want to go on the ride, but Sandu insists.

Up in the air going round and round Comrade Mayor starts to feel very sick.  Gheorghita starts shouting for someone to stop the ride so the mayor can get off the ride.  But his shouts receive no response.  After a while, he realizes that the ride operator Florica is also on the ride.  He asks why Florica would get on the ride leaving the ride unattended?  Florica says that Comrade Sandu said that everyone must go on the ride.  The riders start shouting for help, but there are only shepherds nearby and they just think the riders are having a ball yelling and screaming.     

"Legend has it that they were still spinning when the motorcade turned up at the village." 


The Legend of the Party Photographer

The Party photographer works with his assistant in the dark room.  He tells the assistant that he has to make Comrade Ceausescu taller in the photo.  The assistant says he already made the dictator taller, but the photographer insists that the man must be made even taller. 

A group of bureaucrats discuss the photographs in relation to the newspaper Scanteia.  They say that in the photo Ceausescu looks too small, especially in contrast with Giscard J'Espaing.  They want Ceausescu to be made taller in the photo.  And they have to hurry because the paper has to go out early tomorrow.  A parade goes on through the street where the offices of Scanteia are located.  The parade is also being televised.  The motorcade goes by the building. 

The photographer and his assistant get to work on the photo.  The bureaucrats are impatient for them to make the changes and the assistant starts yelling at whoever keeps knocking on the dark room door to find out when the photo will be ready.  The photographer tells his assistant to stop yelliong.  He adds:  "Do you want me to get arrested?!" 

The bureaucratic committee works on selecting the best photos for the newspaper.  The Party people arrive.  Soon the photographer is told that the committee wants to speak with him.  The photographer gets very nervous.  The messenger tells the photographer that his assistant (his nephew) has a big mouth and Comrade Costache is watching him. 

The photographers meets with the committee.  Their complaint is that all the photos are the same.  And Ceausescu still looks too small.  Comrade d'Estaing is wearing a hat and this makes him seem even taller than he is.  In the photo it looks like Ceausescu is taking his hat off to honor d'Estaing.  So now they want the photographer to put a hat on Ceausescu's head.  The photographer and his assistant have to hurry and put a hat on Ceausescu.  The assistant does put a hat on the man.  The big boss is coming down personally to look at the altered photograph.  He approves the photo and so the newspaper runs that version.  The papers starts being distributed. 

There's a problem, however.  The assistant put a hat on Ceausescu, but he did not eliminate the hat in Ceausescu's hand.  So now Ceausescu has two hats.  The presses are stopped.  The newspapers that are on their way to be distributed are retrieved.  When the photographer hears of the mistake, he almost faints. 

"Legend has it that it was the only time Scanteia didn't reach the workers."


The Legend of the Chicken Driver

Around Christmas time.  For a livelihood, Grigore drives a truck carrying chickens.  He looks over his outside patio and calls down to a man named Fane.  Fane asks Grigore if he wants any fish because his nephew is bringing some down from Babadag.  Grigore goes to asks his wife and she tells Grigore to ask Fane how much fish is he talking about? She also tells her husband that she is going to need a lot of eggs for Easter.

Workers ride their bicycles to the chicken factory.  Grigore comes to work.  He is with a new driver, Sebi.  They go into talk with a fellow in charge of the eggs and ask him if they can get some.  The fellow says he'll see what he can do for Grigore.  Grigore tells Sebi that when the police see that he is driving a chicken truck, they will stop him.   He then gives Sebi some advice.  He tells him never stop for the night.  Just keep driving until you get to your destination.  Furthermore, the chickens always stay locked up and the truck stays sealed.  Grigore says he's been driving poultry to Constanta since 1984.  And Constanta is more than 485 km away from the poultry factory. 

Grigore stops at a restaurant/inn.  He tells one of the waitresses that he wants to talk to the boss Camelia.  He then goes and sits down with two other drivers.  The waitress tells Grigore that the boss is very busy.  Grigore goes  in to see the boss anyway.  He tells her that he has brought her some gizzards.  The boss asks him to get her some eggs.  About 100 would be good. 

At work, the workers who have been working for a long time with the company receive two crates of eggs each.  Grigore also asks that they give him the the two egg crates for Sebi.  They only give Grigore one crate for Sebi, because Sebi is a new worker.  Grigore had expected more, but there's nothing he can do about it. 

Grigore gives his wife one crate of eggs.  At the time she is washing her hair.  It seems that there's a strain in the relationship between husband and wife. 

Grigore is soon on the road again.  He returns to the restaurant bringing the boss 60 instead 100 eggs.  The boss is happy with the 60.  She feeds Grigore and he tells her that he would like to retire in a place like this.  She also gives him some sugar and flour.  Grigore takes his presents and walks to his truck.  He suddenly realizes that someone has stolen his front tires.  So now Grigore will have to spend the night at the restaurant/inn.  Sebi will bring out the tires tomorrow. 

Grigore seems to really like the boss.  After his dinner, he talks with her as she makes bread in the kitchen.  They have a little wine and then Grigore says good night to her. 

In the morning, Grigore goes out to feed and water the chickens.  As he performs this task he sees that there are a lot of newly dropped eggs from the chickens.  He collects them and gives them to Camelia.  The boss is thrilled and wants to know how many chickens are in his truck.  He says somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand chickens.  Camelia wants Grigore to gather the eggs up and she will sell them and he will get some of the money.  Grigore is nervous about it, but he really wants to please Camelia.  They go out to the truck and Camelia comes away with buckets full of eggs. 

Grigore goes back home.  He decides to sleep on the couch rather than in the bed with his wife. 

Grigore stops at the restaurant/inn.  Camelia tells him that she sold all the eggs she had.  She and Grigore go to the truck and start picking up the eggs. 

At night at the chicken facotry, the business owners and the police wait for the return of Grigore. 

Sebi stops at the restaurant/inn.  He tells the other truckers that Grigore is now in jail.  The trial begins next week. 

Grigore gets a visitor.  It's his wife. 

"Legend has it that many Rumanians were forced to steal in order to survive during the 1980's."


The Legend of the Greedy Policeman

A police sergeant named Ion sees his kid Alex and a neighbor kid named Mircaea off to school.  Mircaea's father takes his and the police sergeant's gas cylinders down to have them changed.  Gas is rationed like so many other things. 

At school Alexa asks Mircaea to help him with his grades because he is not doing well in school.  Mircaea likes this class mate named Georgiana, but of the two boys only Alex has been invited to her birthday party.  Alex says that Georgiana doesn't really even like Mircaea.  In the classroom the kids have a substitute teacher.

The father of Mircaea stops at a meat store, but there is no shrimp and no pork.  One of the butchers tells him to come back tomorrow because they should have some pork shank available. 

At night Alex's Uncle Fane and his daughter arrive via a car at the apartment building.  Uncle Fane tells Alex's father that they must be quick because "I can't drive after midnight with the restrictions."  Inside the trunk he shows Alex's father that he has a pig.  The problem is that the pig is still alive.  The sergeant scolds his brother-in-law for bringing him a live pig.  What is he supposed to do with it?  Kill it right here and butcher it in front of the entire apartment complex? 

The sergeant and his brother-in-law put the pig in a blanket and carry it upstairs to the apartment.  The problem is that the pig starts squealing and the sergeant is worried that it will awaken the whole apartment complex.  He adds:  "I'll be arrested."  Fane suggests that Ion shoot the pig.  Alex says they should gas the pig with the gas from their cylinder.  Dad rejects the idea out of hand.

Not discouraged, Alex asks Mircaea for some insulating tape and Mircaea sneaks some out to him.  Now Ion goes to Mircaea's apartment next door and asks the father for the new gas cylinder.  He doesn't, of course, mention what he is going to do with it.  They put the insulating tape around the door frame and windows of the kitchen.  Ion then forces the pig into the kitchen. They turn off the fuses so no electricity will ignite the gas.  Ion then goes into the kitchen to check on the pig and gets bitten.  He rushes out of the kitchen.

Dad tells Alex to go out on the patio until he calls for him.  Meanwhile, Mircaea steals a cigarette from one of his father's pack of cigarettes.  He goes out on the patio and asks Alex if he wants to share a smoke with him?  Alex just says:  "Don't light it!"  He doesn't say why, so Mircaea decides to light up anyway.  Alex grabs the cigarette out of the boy's mouth and throws it to the ground below.

Ion replaces the fuses and they have electricity again.  The pig is definitely dead.  Now they have to burn the hair off the pig.  Dad gets a blow torch and lights it.  A second or so after the lighting of the torch, there is a huge explosion in the kitchen. 

In class the kids all make fun of Alex who has some burns on his face.  The teacher asks him about the burns and Alex says nothing happened to him.  But the kids give him away saying that the burns were caused by "a pig bomb".  All the kids laugh, except for Alex.

Legend has it that the family used what remained of the animal for the seasonal celebrations. 


The Legend of the Air Sellers.

A young female student named Crina comes to her parent's apartment from school.  No one is home.  She looks in the refrigerator but there is very little in it.  There's a knock on her door.  She opens the door and it's a young man standing there.  He says he's an inspector from the People's Council.  A neighbor of hers complained about the tap water being dirty.  Crina says:  "Yes, it's yellowish."  The fellow says that he needs to do a thorough check of her apartment, but Crina says she can't let him in  --  parent's orders.  So the inspector asks her to give him a sample of the water from the tap.  He asks that she put the water sample in a bottle.  Crina gets him the sample and he says:  "See, no need to be scared."  He leaves.

Crina needs 300 lei for a school outing at the Forum in Costinesti.  Her parents tells her that they are short of money.  They have to pay in advanced a certain amount of money for their Dacia car.  Her father asks her if she could stay at Aunt Didina's in Constanta?   Crina is very disappointed and goes to her room to sulk a bit.  A friend of hers, named Roxana, calls up to her from the street.  She wants Crina to go with her to a party.  Crina is not in the mood and tells Roxana that she just had a fight with her father.  Roxana says that at the party they have a video player.  Crina yells to Roxana that she is coming down. 

At the party a fellow asks her to dance, but she tells him that she doesn't want to dance.  She goes into the bedroom with the video player.  There are lots of people in the room watching the movie Bonnie and Clyde in black and white.  Crina sits near her friend Roxana.  Roxana is sitting next to a fellow named Bughi.  Crina asks Bughi if he collected a water sample from her in the afternoon?  She gets no response except to be quiet, because he's watching the film.  Crina leaves the party.

Bughi follows Crina outside and talks with her.  He admits to her that the water collection was part of his scheme to make money.  Crina wants to know what is this scheme of his?  Bughi won't tell her, but he does ask her if she would like to come with him..  Crina agrees to go with him tomorrow after school. 

Crina is in school.  Bughi comes in saying that Crina has to go home with him.  There has been a flood in her apartment and they need her to open the door.  So, Crina goes with Bughi.  He has her get in a car he just stoled.  He drives her to a rather secluded place, where she changes her clothes in the car, while Bughi is outside with his face turned away from her.  They go into an apartment building.  He has her wait on the stairs while he knocks on an apartment door.  The woman inside says yes her water is cloudy.  Bughi asks for a sample.  She complies and Bughi leaves.  Outside Bughi pours the water out of the bottle and then sticks the bottle in his satchel.  He makes money by selling the bottles he collects. 

Crina is intrigued by this.  She asks how much money can he make this way?  Bughi says her father probably earns 10 lei an hour, but he can earn up to 20 lei and hour with his scheme.  Crina thinks about the 300 lei she needs.  She tells Bughi that she wants to run the same scam.  Bughi agrees.  He goes with her, but she does most of the talking.  From an old lady she gets two bottles, one with water from the kitchen and one with water from the bathroom.

Outside Bughi tells her that she should not walk into the apartment,s because there's always a chance that a husband or brother might be in the apartment and this could led to unnecessary complications.  Crina doesn't seem to be worried about this.  She's a pretty calm con-woman.

Crina tells Bughi that she has an idea.  He goes with her to an apartment.  Instead of asking for a water sample(s), she says they are researching the air quality in the building due to the nearby factory.  And she has to have three to five bottles because she needs to take air samples from the kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom(s).  The scam works and she walks out with three bottles to sell. 

Crina asks Bughi if she can make 300 lei by tonight?  Bughi says he will give her the money.  She says no.  She bets Bughi 50 lei that she can get 300 lei.  by tonight  The bet is on.  Bughi knocks on one door, while Crina knocks on another. 

Crina gets paid 194 lei for 80 bottles.  Since she is short of the 300 lei, she gives Bughi 50 lei out of her 194. 

Back at the apartment with the video player Bughi, Crina and many others watch another crime drama. 

Now Crina gets really ambitious.  She and Bughi go to speak to the apartment administrator of a building.  They need to take air samples from all the rooms.  The innovation today is that they want the administrator to assume the responsibility for collecting all the air samples from all the apartments.  The administrator is not sure he has that kind of time, but he says he will see what he can do.  Crina tells the man that they will return in twos days for the bottles. 

Crina worries about the possibility of someone getting wise to them and calling the police.  Bughi says he could get five years in prison for his scheme and for corrupting a minor (Crina).  He wants to kiss her, but she holds back. 

At home Crina is given the 300 lei by her mother.  Crina is very happy and hugs her mother. 

Crina is hungry for more money so she tells Bughi that she wants to pick up all the bottles from their targeted apartment building.  Bughi agrees go go with her tomorrow. 

The next day they go to pick up the bottles.  The administrator has quite a few bottles already waiting to be picked up.  He takes Bughi and Crina over to an apartment and asks the occupant for the samples of air.  The man says he has already made some coffee and he wants Bughi to come sit down with him.  Bughi says no, but the man will not take no for an answer.  So, Bughi says he'll have some coffee with the man, but he tells Crina to stay behind and put the bottles in the car.  Bughi goes into the apartment and Crina grabs some bottles in shopping bags. 

As Crina walks to the car with the bottles, she notices a police car and policemen, who are talking with a number of men.  Crina gets scared and runs back to the apartment to get Bughi.  She goes into the apartment after grabbing a bottle.  She tells Bughi that they called the police on them.  The apartment resident gets wise to them and tries to stop them.  Crina throws the bottle on the floor in front of the man and its breaks into pieces.  But it does stop their pursuer.   

They run up to the roof.  Crina tells Bughi to jump with her, but Bughi says he is just going to stay and talk to the police.  Crina is fearful because they will arrest him.  Bughi tells her not to worry, because his uncle is a Party secretary and can fix it.  Crina is not so sure.  She jumps, picks herself up and starts walking away.  The police arrive on the roof and arrest Bughi.  Crina watches from afar as the police put Bughi in their car. After the car drives away, Crina walks over to the car which is stuffed with bottles. 

Crina now just walks away from the car leaving the bottles behind. 

"Legend has it that with the end of communism, Romanians bought Dacia cars with empty bottles." 



In the Special Features Section there is another Legend:

The Legend of the Zealous Activist

At a communist party conference Comrade Decebal Stoenescu tells the audience that he congratulates them for reaching their set goals.  But there is one area in which there is a need for a lot more work.  And this is the fight against illiteracy.  Romania has the highest illiteracy in the villages and small towns.  They must work to alleviate this problem.  The host thanks the speaker and says that it is everyone's responsibility to work to eradicate illiteracy.   The man on stage says that thry will have the young activists go to the villages and small towns to start the educational thrust.  A young activist named Curelea jumps onto his feet to express his enthusiasm to get started.  The young activists will pave the way for the arrival of regular teachers a little later. 

Curelea gets a ride with a truck driver.  When the road gets too rough, the driver lets Curelea off.  He will have to walk the last 7 km to get to the village.  Curelea asks for directions and then sets out with his suitcase.  The poor fellow has to go over hill and dale and even has to cross a stream after taking off his shoes.  Curelea climbs a tall hill where giant power lines are located.  From the top of the hill he sees a nearby cabin and farm.  He walks over to it and talks with a man named Topala.  Curelea asks the man for something with which he can tie up his suitcase because it's falling apart.  The shepherd gives him some wire.  Curelea then asks for some water, but all the man has is buttermilk, which Curelea doesn't care much for.  He then asks Topala where is the village of Adancata?  Topala points in the opposite direction from where they are standing.

Curelea reaches the village and speaks with the Comrade Mayor, who tells him that the biggest problem the village has is the lack of electricity.  It comes and it goes.  Without electricity there's no clinic and no school.  Curelea says that one doesn't need electricity to study.  After all, their ancestors used to study by candlelight.  He then tells the mayor that he not only wants the children to come to school, but also any and every illiterate adult.  Curelea tells the mayor that a young activist teacher will replace him, but until then, he is responsible for the schooling.  The mayor tells him:  "We don't even have a schoolroom."  That doesn't disturb Curelea.  He is convinced everything can be sorted out.  The mayor gives Curelea a big room in which he can do his teaching.  He also gives him a room where Curelea can sleep and plan his lessons. 

A village crier goes around the village beating a drum and telling the adults and children they they must go to school tomorrow.  The next morning there are children present in school, but no adults.  The mayor goes around the village trying to round up a few adults to go to school.  Many don't come.  Instead, they send gifts of food to Curelea.  Curelea tells the mayor that if the other adults don't come to school, he will have to send the police after them. 

It's not long before some of the students can read simple words.  In class the students learn some practical advice like don't use gasoline to start a campfire.  So soon the students start telling adults some of the good advice they picked up in school.  Topala's son (named Tudorut), for instance, tells dad not to use gasoline to start his fires.  The son can also read the expiration dates on tin cans and he warns his father that one of the tin cans he is heating up has past its expiration date.  Topala has his son eat the can's contents anyway.

With the threat of the police, the school is now packed with adults and children.  But Topala is still a no show.  Curelea sends the policeman to speak with Topala.  The policeman tells the reluctant shepherd that he must go to school tomorrow.  The man gets angry and tells the policeman to get out of here.  The policeman leaves. 

The teacher takes attendance.  Acasandrei is missing from school.  Curelea gets mad, puts the policeman in charge of the class, and rushes out to go find Acasandrei.  The policeman will check the homework assignments.  In the pouring rain, Curelea climbs up the big hill to where the power lines are, near Topala.  Tudorut follows the teacher up the hill.  Tudorut has told his father not to put his hands on the power line towers because his teacher told him there is a big risk of being electrocuted.    And now he sees Curelea supporting himself by leaning against part of an electrical  tower.  Lightning is striking all around.  Tudorut is scared and runs to get his father.  He tells him to come quickly because the teacher is going to be electrocuted.. 

Topala and his son march up the hill.  Curelea is still leaning against the power line tower.  To force the teacher from the tower without touching the man, Topala takes his staff and cracks it down on Curelea's left forearm, breaking it.

Curelea with his arm in a sling is being replaced by another teacher.  The mayor says some nice things about him and the farmers have given him lots of food to take with him.  Curelea is sitting on the back of a wagon with his gifts.  The wagon begins to leave and Curelea waves goodbye to the villagers. 

"Legend has it by the end of the year, the village reported a literacy rate of 99% percent.   


Entertaining movie.  Most of the stories or "legends" have a strange or funny ending making them all interesting to watch.  I liked all the stories.  One learns a lot about how life was in Romania under the communists.  The six stories reveal a hard life for the Rumanians.  Ay a Young Pioneer summer camp, the administrators have to run around to straighten up the camp for an official inspection by the communist big-wigs.  You can feel and hear how anxious and nervous the administrators are about receiving the important, powerful communist party members..  They know they have to make a good impression or else.   

This same fear appears in Legend of the Party Photographer where a photographer for a communist party newspaper is afraid he will be imprisoned or killed if he does not manage to make the photo of the small president of Romania as tall as the Frenchman in the photo.  Watch what you say, for they have an eye on you! 

In the Legend of the Chicken Driver we learn that Romania is a poor country and many of their basic foods are rationed.  Getting enough eggs, for instance, especially for Easter, is a near impossible task.  This is revealed in the adventures of the truck driver of a load of chickens.  And in this one someone does land in prison. 

In the Legend of the Greedy Policeman meat is a heavily rationed item.  We see this when a policeman receives a live pig as a gift from his brother-in-law.  If the pig is discovered, the policeman just knows he's going to prison.  So how can he kill and butcher the pig for its meat when he and his family live in an apartment in a big apartment building? 

In the Legend of the Air Sellers money is so very tight for Romanian families that they often have to sacrifice many of life's enjoyments.  The young girl is not going to be able to go on an overnight class trip with her schoolmates because her parents don't have the money.  The girl meets a con-man who earns a living with his scams and the girl hooks up with him, as in the Bonnie and Clyde movie they watched together.  She gets her money, but she also gets a dose of heartache. 

In the Legend of the Zealous Activist a communist activist volunteers to help eradicate illiteracy in a poor small village.  He has no idea of what he is getting himself into and the results are rather comical. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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