Tales From The Golden Age contains a series of 5 episodes each built around a legend from Romania in the late 80s. The Golden Age was the official name of Ceausescu’s rule, even if in reality people were living in darkness (electricity was off in the evenings on a daily basis for about 2 hours, most of the times there was no hot water, no heating in the houses and no food in the fridges).
The film explores episodes from everyday life of the Golden Age contemporaries – trading food for food, organising meetings with people forced to participate, fear at the workplace etc. The most tragi-comic episode is the episode called Party Photographer – an experienced photographer working for a national newspaper. All the president’s pictures that were to be published had to be approved by a panel of party members – so the pictures had to be edited in order to make the president look taller and better than his official visitor. It was the pre-Photoshop era so the photography tricks had to be made by scissors and glue. One particular episode is shown in the film: the visit of French president Valery Discard d’Estaing – a representative of capitalist world.
The pictures taken by the photographs at the airport show a barehead Ceausescu close to a French president much taller and with his head covered. The message of such a picture was that the communism was hat off in front of capitalism. The photographer tries to fix the problem, glues a hat on Ceausescu’s head but is rushed by the party secretaries and the picture is published without being completely ready. The final (and published) image shows Ceausescu with his head covered and holding an extra hat into his left hand. Because the newspapers have already started their train journey to all major cities, Militia is needed to interfere to stop the trains carrying the newspapers and collect all of them, so that nobody can see and read them next day.
This Orwellian film was screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2009 and has received good reviews from critics.