Berlinale Review: Între Revoluţii (2023)

As the title denotes, this movie by Vlad Petri is set between two revolutions – the one in Iran in 1979 and the one in Romania ten years later. Our struggle for change is a constant one, that slices through history horizontally and vertically – meaning, through society, but also between individuals. Între revoluţii (en. Between Revolutions) frames itself at this intersection, driven by archival footage of social shifts and an epistolary narrative between two friends.

Young students from the Middle East (and other places) have been coming to Romania to complete university studies for decades now. I see the acquaintances my parents made during their years studying medicine in the 80s, with some friendships enduring until today. This is not unlike the inspiration Vlad Petri and screenwriter Lavinia Branişte drew from when assembling the movie, as the experiences of their parents formed the bedrock of this story.

We view it through the lenses of two (fictional) university friends, Maria and Zahra, who start sharing letters after Zahra cuts her studies short to return to Iran and be a part of the 1979 revolution. It’s no easy feat, because the Romanian securitate (i.e. secret police) keep a keen eye on any such interactions and what can be shared is limited – in particular discussions about revolutions would have been triggering for the Ceauşescu regime. Branişte’s script tries to find the nuances to make the whole situation plausible, while offering a sense of the deep friendship the two young women shared. This is not an easy feat and at times I sensed their dialogue was too impersonal to engage, with subdued renderings failing to really add emotional depth.

The movie explores hope, elation and disappointment as they manifest(ed) themselves in Iranian and Romanian societies. Although set forty years ago, it’s apparent some experiences are sadly timeless and the beautiful archival footage, doubled by an effective score, make for a good viewing. The editing from Cătălin Cristuţiu and Dragoş Apetri is worth mentioning, given the ample work that went into shaping this particular time capsule.

There are many details and nuances that Între revoluţii captures which will transfix you at times. Petri, who also benefited from the help of an anonymous Iranian producer in procuring local footage, finds some of the poetry in our inherent struggle of actualization. Perhaps it’s not a perfectly accomplished movie when all is said and done, but it proves its worth in relation to the tribulations of our recent demands for societal equity. 7

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