Reconstruction of the Cold War

After his film Great Communist Bank Robbery, Romanian director Alexandru Solomon returns to the Docalliancefilms portal with his extensive three-part documentary “reconstruction” of the events of the quite recent yet little known chapter in the past of (not only) his country.

The film Cold Waves – Cold War on Radio Waves offers the spectators an attractive story of “love and hate”; the history of the radio station Free Europe. This story is and should be especially attractive for the Czech spectators as it was due to prominent Czech journalists and intellectuals (primarily Ferdinand Peroutka and Pavel Tigrid) that this international project was initiated. (The Czechoslovak section was the first section of the radio station and Czechoslovakia was the first country to receive the radio waves). Though the film follows primarily the history of the Romanian section, it is of interest for the Czech spectators as well. There are many common historical points shared by both departments (e.g. that of the terrorist attack on the radio building in 1981, which, most probably, was aimed against the Romanian section; the bomb, however, exploded in the Czechoslovak section per chance) and, as a whole, the story can be interpreted as a parallel one to that of other countries in Central Europe.

Besides its attractive historical subject, Solomon’s film offers an ambitious, skilfully crafted form. A wide range of active participants in the radio struggle from both sides of the barricade appear in the film. The film is still up-to-date, which can be proved by the very fact that one of the agents of the Securitate secret police, a prominent representative of the section specializing in the struggle with Radio Free Europe (besides jammers and disinformation, real weapons were used, ranging from fists of anonymous attackers to time bombs) is still sitting between four walls – however, they’re not the walls of a prison cell but of the Romanian Parliament, and the seat is that of an opposition MP. Both in case of Great Communist Robbery and Cold Waves, Alexandru Solomon has chosen a theme which does not defy minute historical work, as it is quite recent, the eye-witnesses are still alive and archives are jammed with dozens of thousands sheets of paper. However, the events still defy discovering the truth. Solomon seems to be aware of the fact that, rather than discovering the truth, he will be able to find out the difference between the “truth of yesterday” and the “truth of today.”

It is possible that we will never find out what the real motive of the five perpetrators of the bank robbery in the National Bank of Romania to commit such a risky crime was; similarly, we will probably never learn whether the leading figures of the Romanian section of Radio Free Europe were really exposed to a lethal dose of radioactive radiation following the instruction of Ceausescu himself. In both cases, Solomon’s film is not primarily a reconstruction of the past reality but rather of the past interpretation of this reality. It deals with phenomena that have to be described with precision and their false interpretation has to be erased before they can undergo real interpretation. First, propaganda must be called propaganda, lies must be called lies, disinformation must be called disinformation; only then interpretation can start. However, knowing the lies does not necessarily mean knowing the truth. In his commentaries, Solomon admits that this will probably never be possible, defending the thesis that in some cases, rather than pointing out the truth, it is enough to point out what is definitely not the truth. The result of any knowledge of the past does not depend on the recorded facts only; but, more importantly, on the individual and subjective method of working with these facts. In case of the interpretation of history, there is no objective method of an omniscient observer, for there is no such omniscient observer. This problem of historical authenticity is suggested by one of the witness accounts in the film Great Communist Bank Robbery. The cameraman of the propagandist film Reconstruction, which reacted to the bank robbery in a way conforming to the spirit of those days, says: “Whoever is watching must add something. Such is the nature of our thinking. However, we might find out the reality one day, unless we stop telling the story.”


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