How do you carry on living, afterwards?
Killing the dictator doesn’t necessarily kill the dictatorship.
“Totalitarianism is a system founded on blind obedience, terror and violence. Anyone who lives for too long under such a system will, involuntarily, eventually, become part of the system. It’s an underground terror that reigns, it becomes part of one’s life, a banal habit. The unacknowledged victim has two options: to refuse reality and carry on as a victim of History (even unconsciously) ; in doing so, to maintain a connection with such historical injustices and, as a result, is forever caught up in the trap, or, to try and understand the chain of events so as to come to terms with the fact it happened. Then to forgive in order to unravel the bond that ties us to that historical injustice and the perpetrators.” Radu Clit, Psy. D, University Paris 5. “Totalitarian Frame and Narcissistic Functioning – collective and individual psychological effects of East European communist state power”.
I agree with Radu Clit. In my opinion, it concerns state controlled dictatorships just as much as domestic dictatorships. There are many different kinds of perpetrators but the effort that’s required to undo the ties that binds us to those perpetrators is the same. That work depends on us, we have to set it in motion.
I met Ioana in 1991, in Bucharest, a year after the coup d’état that the media called the “Revolution”. When we met, we talked about everything except the dictatorship from which her country had recently emerged, as if silence could expunge everything that was still too raw.
After my studies in Bucharest, I returned regularly to visit Ioana and her family, with whom I’d created strong family ties – I became the godmother of Ioana’s daughter, Téona, and Rodica, Ioana’s mother, had become like a substitute mother to me. I understand their country’s problems “from the inside”. Now I personally feel them.
It helped me work on the subjects of abuse, silence and fear, on the cocoon that Ioana made for herself – an illusory cocoon that preserves her from the surrounding reality and protects her from the abuse, both present and past, for the old, intrusive reflexes die hard in Romania, and Ioana, powerless and depressed, has withdrawn into her family unit. She refuses the reality of the outside world in which she lives – she involuntarily maintains a connection with the historical injustice – her cocoon has become a cell.
Ioana has never taken the time to analyze what torments her. Words have only come to the surface because they are inscribed in a filmic endeavor which supports and transcends them.
The editing accentuates these dynamics, so that people who have never discussed their traumas can, at last, “answer” each other. It thus stresses the silence and the unspoken, which still keeps them apart, and which has been passed on from generation to generation. It already surrounds Téona who has understood without needing to be told that certain questions should not be asked of her elders, exactly like her mother understood long before her.
Through the story of Ioana, a young, 40 year old Romanian woman, my film shows how living under a dictatorship becomes a way of life. And this is not the « privilege » of ex-communist countries.