Monday, July 15, 2019


That statement in the headline above, which doubles as the title of this new Romanian movie, are the words of Marshal Ion Antonescu (shown on the TV screen in photo, bottom), Romania’s military dictator, to the Council of Ministers during the summer of 1941 that is said to have begun the ethnic cleansing on the Nazi's Eastern Front during World War II.

The movie itself tracks the fictional planning and execution of a particular outdoor theatrical celebratory event to take place in present-day Romania that is being put together by a certain talented, intelligent, and very driven young woman.

I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS is the creation of the very real and also very talented Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude (shown at left, of Aferim! & Scarred Hearts), who again shows us how unusually creative he can be while simultaneously breaking some cinematic rules that many of us probably hold quite dear. His long (two hours and 20 minutes) but never boring (for thoughtful audiences, at least) movie is jam-packed with discussions -- political, philosophical, biblical, historical -- by that young woman and her associates, her married boyfriend and especially the evidently high-level muckety-muck who formerly OKed her project but is now having second thoughts about the wisdom of it all.

If these discussions were not enough of a problem (come on, come on: where's the car chase?), the movie assumes an interest in Romanian history, of which we get quite a lot. By virtue of the fact that Romanian history is so very like so much of European history -- especially concerning the round-up, persecution and murder of the Jewish population -- that assumption turns out to be dead-on.

Our heroine is given such a fine and feisty performance by Ioana Iacob (shown above, center, and below, right) that we are almost immediately in her clutches. She's not simply smart and talented; she also cares about what she is doing to the extent that she'll risk her career, such as it is, to make sure her intentions -- showing her country its unvarnished past, genocides and all (Romania is said to have gladly exterminated more Jews than any other European country save Nazi Germany, together with Hitler's own homeland, Austria).

The movie is full of irony (atop and inside other ironies) so that even when dealing with the most awful portions of Romanian history, dark humor proliferates. And Jude films his provocative discussions in every possible place, including bedside, with his heroine and her boyfriend nude and full-frontal, even as they argue.

How the final event plays out -- we see it in all its detailed "glory" --  is also awash in irony. I won't go into specifics but will say that the movie in one big way disappoints because, if it was obvious to me (and probably will be to you) how things will turn out, this makes the expectations of both the heroine and her main detractor seem rather naive and ridiculous. If we so readily know, how could they not?

Still, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians proves a rich, ripe history lesson as well as a morality tale about why a country needs to know and confront its own history, including the worst of it. God knows America still has this lesson to learn, as do more and more of the world's other homelands -- even as a sleazy, stupid nationalism continues to overwhelm their thinking populaces via jingoistic demagogues.

From Big World Pictures, in Romanian with English subtitles, the movie opens this Friday, July 19, in New York City at the IFC Center, and the following Friday, July 26, in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Monica Film Center. Another five cities have theatrical screenings in the weeks to come. Click here (then scroll down) to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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