Beginner’s luck is one thing but it’s always best for beginners to have the talent to help inspire such luck as evidenced with the production, release and subsequent overwhelming acclaim for writer/director Catalin Mitulescu’s feature length debut, The Way I Spent the End of the World.
Having been screened at internationally recognized festivals in cities including Toronto, Venice, Berlin, Rotterdam, Melbourne, Helsinki, and Hong Kong, Mitulescu’s celebrated film received two additional honors-- first as Romania’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards and secondly when its star Dorotheea Petre garnered a Best Actress award from the Cannes Film Festival. However, for film buffs, perhaps its greatest feat came from the overwhelming support of master directors Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) and Martin Scorsese who served as executive producers to the film and via their name recognition, helped ensure its wider release in getting the movie seen by more audiences before their goal was enhanced yet again with the title's inclusion in the Film Movement series. All of these extraordinary feats over the course of an entire career would be impressive enough but for them to have happened to a filmmaker with his first feature length release makes talented beginner Catalin Mitulescu someone to watch indeed.
Framing a coming of age tale in the last year of Ceausescu’s dictatorship in 1989 Bucharest, we meet the seventeen year old beautiful, intelligent Eva (Dorotheea Petre) who, along with her boyfriend, accidentally shatters a valuable bust of the dictator at their school. Expelled after revealing her involvement in the unintentional incident, Eva is sent to reform trade school where she meets Andrei, the rumored son of arrested pamphlet passing revolutionaries who has become a hot topic of conversation in her neighborhood. Eva and Andrei form a fast friendship while they plot their Romanian escape which is viewed with jealousy and suspicion by Eva’s loving but mischievous seven year old brother Lalalil (Timotei Duma) who, along with his loyal group of rebellious kids plot to exact lethal revenge on the dictator for driving his sister from his home.
As Cinematical’s Martha Fischer wrote in her Toronto International Film Festival Review, The Way I Spent the End of the World is less about conditions under Ceausescu’s communist regime and is more focused on depicting the ups and downs of life for the country’s working classes prior to the revolution. With an emphasis on character driven action that offers a stunning showcase for not only its charismatic leading lady but also its precociously gifted young star Duma, the film boasts a gorgeous score by Alexander Balanescu and should definitely strike a chord with fans of similar tales of youth coming of age in difficult political times such as Machuca, Viva Cuba (also available from Film Movement), and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.
Note: My screening of the film came from the recommendation of both a thoughtful reader as well as an acquaintance at Film Movement. Thanks for the heads up, guys, and keep those ideas coming!