In the 70s, Romania was one of those places where being a free-spirited person was unwelcomed and dangerous. Any cultural activity had to pass through the sieve of harsh censorship, and the ubiquitous security services were eager to use their power to limit influence from the West. Romania was almost completely isolated from the world; its only window to the outside world was the Metronom programme which was first broadcast by Radio Romania on May 10th 1967.
There were not many young people on the streets of Romanian cities on Sunday afternoons. Everyone sat in front of their radios and listened to this legendary show hosted by Cornel Chiriac and Geo Limbăşanu. Despite the fact that the government’s censorship officials carefully followed every word spoken by the radio presenters, and the list of recordings had to be approved by the “party factor”, Metronom was the only radio on-air where you could hear the latest news from the world of popular music. It was thanks to this radio programme that Romanian youth heard about Hendrix, The Doors, Dylan, and other Western stars of that period.
1972, Bucharest. Ana (Mara Bugarin) is an ordinary high school student. She has just learned that her boyfriend, Sorin (Serban Larazovici), is about to leave for Germany. Hesitant about whether to forget Sorin or spend his last remaining days in Romania together, Ana decides to follow her heart and, against her mother’s wishes (Andreea Bibiri), goes to her best friend’s party to tempt Sorin into becoming intimate with her. While at the party, Ana and her classmates enjoy listening to Metronom. Delighted to hear The Doors and Jimi Henrix, the young party-goers sink into a dancing euphoria.
As Metronom is a station that people could send anonymous letters to, the teenagers decide to send theirs. Not long after the letter is sent, the Securitate, Ceausescu’s secret police, arrives to the apartment and arrests everyone…
Metronom, written and directed by Alexandru Belc, a documentary filmmaker, depicts the life of teenagers living in the 1970s through Ana’s eyes. Against the background of communistic Romania, the film deals with the subjects of love, freedom, and hope in a compelling way.
Ana desperately seeks affection and reassurance that Sorin loves her, and with this belief, she desires to soothe her pain of separation and ultimately the end of their relationship. The longing for love and its loss somewhat instils knowledge about hope and freedom. Mara Bugarin’s performance is exquisite. The actress finds just the right balance between the character’s strength and vulnerability. She also demonstrates the sort of precise body language that is often so much more important than line reading, particularly when we see her dancing, or when the camera focuses on her facial expressions.
With excellent camera work and a beautiful colour palette, Tudor Panduru enhances the viewer’s experience throughout the film. Shot on 35 mm, while also using vintage camera lenses, Panduru effortlessly takes the audience on a journey to Romania in the 1970s. While often overlooked by the viewers and underused by some directors, sound design becomes a powerful storytelling tool in Belc’s first feature debut. Apart from providing another layer of immersive realism by playing diegetic music while filming the party scenes – according to Belc, no music was added in post-production – the team uses the natural sounds surrounding the characters as well.
Even though Belc chose not to show the full reality of Ceausescu’s regime, he did show a glimpse of it – particularly in the scene that showed the teenagers being taken to the police station. Overall, with its straightforward narrative, Metronom drew on a heart-rending portrait of a teenage girl who was abruptly thrown into the world of adulthood.
Written by Maggie Gogler