Not rated. I was going to say that there was nothing of concern in the movie, but there is some very mild nudity. I don't think I've ever written the term "mild nudity", but there is a victim of a fire who does a nude photo shoot. I don't think you really see anything that would be considered offensive, but it is in the movie. I also think that there is some mild language. The documentary also focuses on death, so keep that in mind. Not rated.
DIRECTOR: Alexander Nanau
Why is it always on sleepy Mondays that I get stuff like Collective? Like, I have a lot of thoughts about Zack Snyder's Justice League, but here I am talking about a documentary that made my wife fall asleep about halfway through. There are some really well made documentaries this year and Collective, unfortunately, isn't one of them. I have no problem with the subject matter. The subject matter is fascinating...for a short. So I'm stuck on a Monday morning, after only getting about three hours of sleep, writing about a movie that I watched a million movies ago, that really should have been half an hour long. If I call it quits a little early today, just be aware that I tried my best and I'm very sleepy.
Collective's marketing department needs to chill a bit. The disc said something about the scandals keep getting deeper and deeper. And for a while, I really believed that. The opening infodump involved the story of a nightclub that caught fire, killing way too many people for what had actually happened. That's the starting point. Since we didn't know the details of what happened, the first quarter of the movie was shocking. Through a series of investigative articles by a sports magazine (which may be the most telling thing about Romanian media), the newspaper finds out that the victims of the fire shouldn't have died not due to lack of proper fire safety, but due to Romanian hospitals being death traps. The major bomb in this whole thing is that the chemicals used to sterilize rooms and instruments were being diluted to save money. We're not talking about slightly diluting products, but the stuff that they were using was so fundamentally ineffective that it would have been safer had the victims never been taken to the hospital at all.
This is the first fifteen minutes of the doc. And from that perspective, that's a fascinating first fifteen minutes. But the rest of the movie is the equivalent of watching the natural paperwork go through. Perhaps that's a harsh assessment of the film. Collective almost runs for two hours. It's not the longest film in the world, but it certainly ain't the shortest by any stretch of the imagination. And over the next hour-and-a-half, the movie does eventually tie this hospital's practices of cost cutting to government corruption, which totally needs to be addressed. It's just that...it isn't done through leaps and bounds. It's through the slow, mundane meetings of government officials. It's from the perspective of the new Minister of Health in Romania discovering how crappy his job is. It's about people being up in an uproar and then forgetting about the uproar, but some people don't forget? It's got this message that is kind of muddled by the way that he documentarians forget what the point of it all is.
And if I was Romanian, this is something I should be angry about. While the film covers the reaction of the people, it really is centered about what happens behind closed doors. Listen, I probably would have made the same choice. Given the opportunity to follow the minister of health through this process seems like an opportunity of a lifetime, the story should be about the victims and how they view bureaucracy. The movie almost completely loses its emotional resonance once the victims of the fire are relegated to the B-or-C-plot. There's nothing more like a cold shower than ignoring the grass roots movement to change things and focusing on a guy who feels impotent in his position. Nanau tries to bring in an element of humanity into the piece with the now maimed model and how she is the public face of this tragedy. But it really does feel like an afterthought that isn't fully explored. This image of this burned woman publicly displaying her injuries should be powerful, but it comes across as "Don't forget this element too".
Nanau also might not be the perfect voice for this piece. I know that is harsh, considering that I haven't seen his other documentaries. But Nanau pretends to be a guy who stumbled upon this while rubbing shoulders with investigative journalist Catalin Tolontan. Tolontan is definitely the hero of the piece. But Nanau came in clearly once this was publicly broken. However, instead of acknowledging that this was his process, Nanau clearly seemed to ask Tolontan and his staff to pretend like they were discovering this information while the documentary was being made. Acting in a documentary that is supposed to be cinema verite is super clunky. It really pulls you out of the story. I believe that Nanau is present once the film shifts from Tolontan to Vlad Voiculescu because, as awkward as Vioculescu is, there are miles between faking reality and the clunkiness of having a camera in your face the entire time. It's so bad, guys. Like, I get that there's a good message. But presenting the information like this is just completely lacking authenticity.
I think I might close up here. Anything else I write is just for lengthening my blog entry, which probably doesn't really serve anyone. It's a documentary that absolutely needs to exist. The work of Tolontan and his staff, despite being the staff of a sports newspaper, should be celebrated and heralded. But the way that this information is presented doesn't really hold the emotional weight that it should. There is corruption in the Romanian government that keeps being encouraged by the same things that happened in the United States for the past four years. It's what happens when we question the media because it doesn't align with our political mindsets. But there is definitely a better way to tell this story than Collective.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.