The year is 1972. Love is in the air. The bustling Bucharest leaves traverse the nationalist monuments, the aura of autumn succumbing to the local youth. They gather and discuss politics; a clear resentment against the current state. They speak of westernisation in grandiose applauses, gathering for parties celebrating the music and liberty of anglo-centric pop-culture. They feel repressed, a life lacking colour and flavour within their communist-minded communities. As with all great love stories, the directorial debut from Romanian newcomer Alexandru Belc deals with a staggering motif of opposition. Teenagers versus state. Lovers versus time. A young woman's self-realisation versus the plight of Romania's history of rigorous censorship.
The aforementioned motif is the central focus of Metronom, a film which prominently takes place over the timeframe of a fateful 24 hour stint. Belc transports the viewer to a time where personal freedom and liberation was stringent for the local youth; a rebellious wakeup call reclaiming the production and broadcast of personal speech & freedom. Intertwined with the political power-play, the film also toys with the fringes of romance. Metronom is a subversive love-story; a film which can be best described as a bad-breakup film. Only this time, the break-up in question directly correlates with Romania's oppressive government; revolution, conspiracy, & back-stabbing are all essential footnotes in Belc's opaque 4:3 thriller.
The film, prevalently told in languid sequences which emulate a real-time effect, eventually loses some of its intrigue during the opening establishing act. The information and world building present, whilst essential to the film's political references, dowers the urgency of Belc's narrative. Metronom's interrogative second act is a far more beguiling achievement — utilising restrictive shooting locations and expositional dialogue to accelerate an unnerving sense of unease in the frame. Vlad Ivanov's brief appearance in the film's final climactic blow further proves his talent as one of the great Romanian performers; delivering a menacing on-screen presence which radically shifts through various powerful voice complexions.
From beginning to end, there's a gothic texture present within Metronom's bleak reality. In a city rid of colour, in a system built on the loss of innocence of the populace's youth — Metronom highlights an essential narrative on the subjective suppression of artistic freedom. Sustained to specifically comment on the surveillance and barbarity of state, Belc's intense historical rhetoric provides an insightful education tool which uncovers an important fragment within Romania's suppressed history. There's subtext through visual saturation; a towering albeit restless cinematic recollection told with maturity and visceral emotional stake.