Obviously Lucian Pintilie had no love for or faith in perilous Romania when it was Communist. In The Oak (1991), it is often a sick joke and Pintilie’s film a dark but compassionate comedy. The two protagonists are smart and temperamentally strong, but a society where somebody is always needing to be rescued from something—and frequently no rescue comes—gives them a terrible run for their money. No wonder Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu was executed.
Sobering and sassy, The Oak is political satire and then some. It is a fast-moving, post-Red expression of despondency over past nightmares and absurdities, sharply directed by Pintilie. In the leading roles, Maia Morgenstern and Razvan Vasilescu perform superbly, but it is Morgenstern who gets to display an enviable range. Look for her under the heading, “Force and Femininity.”
(On VHS, yes, but DVD and Blu-Ray?)