"Whether it's about communism, the revolution, or the aftermath of communism." This statement is often used to describe the major trends of post-December Romanian cinema. Although clearly reductionist and untrue, the statement also includes Tudor Giurgiu's latest feature film, Freedom. Described by the director as "the most challenging project I've worked on," Freedom seeks to surpass the clichés found in films about the Revolution by exploring a new setting (Sibiu) and a fresh perspective (the illegal detainees after the regime's fall), adapted from real events by Tudor Giurgiu and Cecilia Ștefănescu - the same duo behind Giurgiu's debut film, "Love Sick" (2006).
For the most part, Tudor Giurgiu's attempts to break the mold are successful - Freedom begins with real chaos, barely seen in other films about the Revolution, reminiscent more of war films like "1917" (2019) than Romanian films. Alternating between the militia headquarters, army headquarters, and the streets, we become familiar with the ensemble cast, composed of numerous high-caliber actors.
Among the entire cast, the most memorable is none other than Cătălin Herlo, the actor from the National Theatre in Cluj-Napoca, who exposes himself on the big screen as commanding, tender, and sharp - a portrayal of the communist man with star-making skills just a year after a seemingly comedic (but not quite) role in "Mirciulică" (2022). On the other side of the revolutionary Leahu (Herlo) is Stănese (Alex Calangiu), a judicial police officer whose secrets gradually unravel as he falls deeper into despair.
Returning to the aforementioned cast, it brings together three distinct camps: the militiamen, the soldiers, and the revolutionaries, who merge and separate due to twists of fate. This is where the stakes lie in Freedom, as Tudor Giurgiu reveals all the small cracks and connections that intensify in times of crisis. Former office colleagues find themselves on opposite sides of the bars, reproaching each other for not pursuing their own interests and relying on past relationships and connections - appeals that were once condemned and associated with only one group ("those in power"), but are now part of the daily routine, in a sea of men trapped in a basin, trying to escape with their lives.
This chaos persists throughout the entire film, intentionally left unresolved. No matter how hard they all try, the police, revolutionaries, and secret police together will never find the "first bullet," which is only suggested and perhaps insinuated, contradicting what is seen on the screen. Ultimately, it all boils down to a persistent struggle for elusive freedom, regardless of the dismantled system. On the contrary, the constant presence of small prejudices, discrimination, and conflicts only confirm that the system was merely a tool of man. The revolution took effect, the system changed, but man remains captive, screaming for freedom.