(sequel from the previous issue)
As in life, in Bucharest Non-Stop things happen simultaneously, although most of the time the feeling is of absence of action, of difficulty in determining plots or culminations. All four storylines are connected through the main character of the non-stop store, Achim being intensely present, in an intrusive manner, in the lives of the four couples, as well as in the lives of others who occasionally enter his boutique. He thus becomes a seller of illusions in some store, where nothing happens and not much is done, but where everything is known. He defines himself as a good connoisseur of people, who quickly identifies “how things work in the world”. We notice a gullible individual, the one who gives the intercom code and the car cables, the multiple “proxies” interposed between the characters’ facets, there is an antithesis between the pitiful job of being a small shopkeeper at night and the grandiose pose of knowing and being in control of the souls, minds and actions of those around him.
The boutique itself is a metaphor for Bucharest, which hides in the night from underworld gangsters and thieves to honest people, colonels, from immaturity to death, highlighting different faults of the city. You can’t hide in Bucharest, because the flashlight or car headlights highlight what’s happening. Fake money symbolizes gullibility. People of the same social status, such as the taxi driver or the prostitute, through money interact with people they never see again. Dora’s two friends, the defending side and the accusing side of herself, are split according to a 14-year-old mental age: “I want a romance too” is the leitmotiv for “Let something happen tonight!”
About the character of the colonel, we infer that he would have sacrificed his life for the career option, while he remains deserted and alone, because in exchange for the services rendered, he finds late and with great difficulty a part of an already burnt candle. It’s interesting that the film doesn’t highlight what this character was good at in the past, but just leaves us to guess. The usual is raised to the rank of spectacular. In all four storylines, people realize the magnitude of the consequences of their actions in the après-coupe and always act after the wrong has already been done. Such actions in the after-effect presuppose overcompensation. The colonel who has done nothing for his wife all his life is now desperately searching for the candle, for the final gesture to work as a Deus ex machina to relieve him of the “guilt tax”.
The fact that at the end of the film you can hear the moans of the partners who continue to make love shows that everyone’s life is moving forward, regardless of the surrounding dramas. An anchor in the film is represented by a fifth couple, the one consisting of two young people who buy condoms. The Japanese killed in the past by the stray dog fed by Mrs. Antonescu is the symbol of innocence. The underworld Giani is presented without family values. When he learns that the prostitute threatens his business by leaving, he suddenly throws the little girl out of his arms (“Get her out of here!”), more interested in Jeni’s departure than his own granddaughter. Whether the character who so easily gives the intercom code is gullible or careless, because he gives a “fake” code, remains debatable.
There’s always a manipulator and a naïve: “Even my mother would have seized on that the money was fake!” (Achim to the one who registers the accident). The film focuses on the details given in the quarrels, on what is more important, life versus the “fakes”: the car leather/the face skin; prostitute “rented” for a few hours versus the car bought for life. The shoe left by Jeni in the car represents an attempt to throw everything away and start life over.
The representative element of the film is the pleasure of Achim’s intrusion into the lives of others. Intrusiveness that continues until the moment when the person in question no longer likes the pose, when he suddenly says: “Sorry, I want to get out of what I have produced!”. The motive in the old couple is jealousy, Gheorghidiu’s motive. Mrs. Antonescu could have bought her own puppy to shower her affection on, but as her husband was never at home and her feelings were dissipated to several anonymous men, in her old age she chooses to feed several some stray dogs.
The film underlines the caricature, the grotesque, the forced exacerbation: the confusion between dead being/dead lantern, human skin/car leather, the jump from cartoons to sex. The woman is presented in four poses: the one who is concerned with buying a condom, the tricked prostitute who already has a child at home, probably due to negligence, the undecided pregnant woman, the old woman who regrets an abortion. In two similar situations, the woman projects the responsibility onto the man, stating: “You made me have an abortion!”; “I’ve been waiting for you to tell me what to do!” The teddy bear, a plush corporeality, is a space proving the existence of a childhood. In the scenario of the prostitute, we identify the perspective of cumulative trauma, because the character in question knows from the beginning what is going to happen to her, quietly expecting the tragedy. On the other hand, she arouses in every man both the need to abuse or betray her, as well as the need to be saved. The cables and the telephone bind people rather than unbind them.
The character from the non-stop store is confronted at every moment with the insufficient knowledge of their own needs by others. Each in turn is confronted with this. Someone introduces oneself and he asks: “What do you want?”, “What can I give you?”, “Which one do you want?”. In most cases, the answer is a standard one: “Give me what you want!” What you know that is better...”. At which point it becomes clear that those concerned do not know what they want. However, all storylines converge and what drives them to the non-stop store is the need, it is present in all characters and they are all taken out of the house at night by need. The symbol of non-stop can be attributed both to the need, which is constantly emerging in the human being, and to the availability of the main character, through his curiosity and intrusiveness in the life of those who ask him for something. The storylines are the invisible links between people, the human that unites non-stop. The jobs of the main characters are interesting, the jobs that signify the idea of entering and leaving the world of something: in/out of the boutique, in/out of the taxi, in the intimate inner side of the being who prostitutes herself. By opposition, the colonel suggests complete loneliness in the job, loneliness in bedridden old age.
From another perspective, the world of villainy is presented. The villainy is also present non-stop, the film bringing to light what happens at night: whores, accidents (premeditated or accidental), lovers or madmen sitting under the window, death, underworld gangsters, taxi drivers, the coffee shop, among other goodies and trifles. The film discusses typical characters in situations presented in a new way through the magnifying glass of hyper-analyzability. Need leads to self-disclosure.
In all storylines, the denouement takes into account the fact that the one who sets up a trick becomes the tricked oneself. Mrs. Antonescu dies first, although all her life she thought it would be the other way around. The couple seems stunned that life ends while they are discussing it instead of living it. Giani is considered a manipulator and an abuser, while someone else sees him as the one who saved Jeni from Botoşani and from going to Spain (i.e., from a greater evil). The taxi driver thinks he is getting a profit from Giani by betraying him, but in the end, he ends up paying much more by promising to buy a new teddy bear and by taking Jeni to Botoşani. Those who plan to get money from the accident find themselves duped with fake euros. The character of Roma ethnicity, who only wants reconciliation with his partner, finds himself tricked and put in the position of asking her to marry him.
Achim, associated with non-stop availability, is a kind of eye of Bucharest, who activates the idea of a savior in people’s minds, by trying to offer something to everyone, during the time he has information about them (he offers five RON to the couple who does not have the money for condoms, he offers a beer to the one who owed him thirteen million, he offers money to the prostitute and candles to the colonel), while keeping and owning the cables. The non-stop store is associated with the village posture of the round dance (“horă”) or Iocan’s glade, the place where things happen and are made public, from death to the abuse of corporeality and emotionality, to credulity and naivety.
The film Bucharest Non-Stop has in itself a tragic note of modern expression, which criticizes the interpretations dominated by the idealistic and essentialized position of the human being, according to which life is suffering, wanting a reductive allegory that illuminates contemporaneity. It is reminiscent of Edith Hall, who insists on the idea of a multivocal form of democratic expression in the modern sense (Hall, 2015), whereby the access to speech of those excluded or marginalized by society becomes unimaginable.
The situations presented in the film propose a way of thinking that is much more advanced from the point of view of the involvement of a hidden politics. The narrative scenarios are marked by the activation of the conflict between virtues and marginal characters (deceived women, prostitutes, naive men who believe and hope for an easy gain of dishonest money, lonely and ruminative old men, underworld gangsters), as well as by a problematization of freedom, real or metaphorical. The film remains, however, anchored in the reproduction of the ideology of the civic community of Bucharest in recent years.
The radical exercise of the disagreement between desideratum and resolutions is fundamentally and masterfully exposed by the director, being supported by the desire to create egalitarian social models. The scenes mark “extreme social and conflict heterogeneity” (Hall, 2015), highlighting an “idealized and dysfunctional” (Hall, 2015) form of transfiguration of institutions and social relations. This happens similarly to Athenian tragedies, which “embody the disorder and resolution of a crisis caused by actual death, adultery, exile, war, or the violation of what Antigone calls the «unwritten and unspeakable laws» of the gods” (Hall, 2015). Taboos would be included in this category of events, such as: murder by abortion, physical violence and emotional abuse that increase the status of prostitution, violation of marriage vows, lack of respect for promises made. The weak, the dead are highlighted by the crises caused by the other.
The director tries to give shape to a divided, broken, precarious consciousness, for what is happening represents, according to Simon Critchley, a critique of moral psychology, as well as a critique of the attempt to moralize the psychism. We are talking about mentalization, as a way of thinking interposed between emotions and actions, the scenarios presented inviting to overcome blind impulsiveness and withdraw into a solitary life. The film represents “the difficulty and uncertainty of action, in a world defined by ambiguity, where what is right always seems to be on both sides” (Critchley, 2019).
Everything that happens seems in a strained relationship with the philosophical. The scenes, although devastating in their essence, exclude from discursive thought the range of experiences that we call tragic, in particular despair and the phenomenon of lamentation, although, permanently, what prevails beyond the actions is the contradiction and ambivalence of the human being. Thus, “a philosophical perspective is articulated, that undermines the authority of philosophy, giving voice to contradictory, refused, precarious, limited aspects” (Critchley, 2019). As a human experience, the film proposes the idea of “limited control of deeply traumatic affect, antagonistic conflict, political complexity and moral ambiguity” (Critchley, 2019), representing a resistance against a reductionist mindset. Due to the role of affect in the construction of traumatic experiences, what is noticed is a form of explanation of reality. And not just an aesthetic or non-aesthetic form that takes grief and rage into itself, but one that extends normal experience to borderline states, in which radical questions about morality are weighed. The fact always includes a political or social dimension.
Drawing an analogy between film and ancient tragedy, according to Simon Goldhill, the Homeric language of the myths underlies the language of the characters, being an integral part of the rewriting process. We are talking about a language of the film, which refers to “public, democratic, manly” (Goldhill, 2007) and which means political, marked by responsibility, cause and causality: “The tragic message, when understood, refers to the fact that there are areas of opacity and incommunicability in the words people exchange” or, according to Critchley, “a realist skepticism that qualifies and deepens what hope means” (Critchley, 2019).
The four main storylines, along with anchor scenes and secondary characters, are built on imagination and language. Bucharest Non-Stop reveals a world and/or several worlds already created. Considered by philosophy a “crucial interpretative activity”, the ability to build worlds is imposed by the fact that we do not have access to the “thing itself”. According to Nelson Goodman, worlds are “products of symbolic activity, of ordering, of omitting, of supplementing” (Goodman, 1978), so that if perception itself is a symbolic process, then world building is based on a second-degree symbolic representation. In an alternative interpretation, David Herman considers the ability to build worlds through narration a process that requires both the creation of an orienteering map and the creation of a framing, a bringing into “focus” (Herman, 2009). Thus, one can consider, according to Marie-Laure Ryan, two different perspectives on how worlds can be built: by straining (which is a productive activity) or by decoding (which is an interpretive activity) (Ryan, Foote & Azaryahu, 2016).
The elements that enable a complex integration of “materiality, perception and cognition” (Ellestrom, 2016), integration necessary for the building of worlds, involve four modalities, according to Ellestrom: the material, the sensory, the spatio-temporal and the semiotic, modalities that the film highlights using the metaphor of the spider caught in a complex and often invisible web. The purpose is to describe the reality of the traumatized person, of the abused, cheated, tricked, deceived by others or by themselves. Drozdek considers it important to recover the web as a fabric of domains: intrapsychic, interpersonal and socio-political (Drozdek, 2007). Bronfenbrenner believes that there is an arrangement of concentric structures, which explain such situations: micro-, meso-, exo- and macrosystems (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994).
Memory, as a driving reservoir that feeds the feeling of bliss of the moment, of annihilation of the present, of prospecting of the future, of optimism or of criticism seen as pure negativity, disturbs the consistency of the personality and the coherence of spatial and temporal models, imposes an anti-traditional, non-Cartesian approach of mind-body relations. If starting with Kant, time and space are considered a priori dimensions, which make possible experience and consciousness as such, sensory disturbances (spatial disorientation and temporal confusion), along with cognitive distortions associated with traumatic situations (Kant, 1998) that the film Bucharest Non-Stop presents, can be understood as a diminution of the ability to be human. What we describe above brings to mind the image of madness from the medieval imaginary: “Madness is more a device or engine, an ingenium rather than a destiny” (Gherovici & Steinkoler, 2015). Madness will be identified in relation to the alternate, syncopated, synthetic rhythm of an inexorably unfolding deregulation, with the necessity and precision of an engine: the impressive impersonality of dissociation, an engine that cancels out what is personal, subjective, and valuable in each individual character.
The language in the film is common, colloquial, less influenced by historicity and reason. However, it sediments value decisions and bears itself the stamp of traditional speeches, through which each character tries to rigorously guarantee their principled value, radically excluding the irrationality of their acts or irregularities in relation to accepted social norms. Over all happenings in the film there is a silence of a special kind, which is neither determined nor related to spacing, and is not “imposed at a particular moment rather than another, but is essentially related to the act of force and prohibition, which it opens history and speaking” (Hobson, 1998). The film thus transforms, until the dawning end, into a gradual recovery of the link between the subjective and the objective, between inner and outer meanings, between the personal and the universal.
Van der Kolk stated that trauma is always pre-verbal. The effects of abuse must be related to the destruction of the protective barriers of the Ego, but also to the fact that the unconscious is structured as a language. If from the deconstructivist perspective the subject is text, interpretation, context, details from the character’s biography become important in each scenario. It should be stated that, although the traumatic event of each individual character is not directly treated as a deconstruction, according to Derrida, the initial reaction to the abuse establishes a trace, which allows in the structure of meaning the reference and alteration of the initial meaning of what is happening in the film. An absolute meaning of abuse(s) does not exist. The script itself is, to paraphrase Derrida, a surplus, “a fabric of pure traces, differences in which meaning and force are inscribed; as a text that is nowhere present, constituted by archives, which are always already transcriptions” (Hobson, 1998).
The characters’ exchanges of lines, often designed to seem irrelevant or tangential, contain symbolic motifs that point to a beyond of the trauma, failing to name and tame the overwhelming affect. Characters embody affects and oscillate between naming and avoiding them. It is the idea of the existence of axiological disorder, reflected in thought and behavior, along with the dysregulation of the functioning of traumatized minds, in relation to the collapse of the emotional investment associated with the value systems of those concerned. The film makes us face a cognitive dissonance, originating in throwing ethical principles into crisis through contact with a trauma that jeopardizes the existence of the individual.
The movie puts us in the position of integrating in our minds the traumatized personality of one or another of the characters, of understanding the discordances and differences between body-centered and mental experiences. The characters temporarily lose touch with reality, and this fact remains associated with the danger of an atrophy of the person’s basic personality and a withdrawal from the real world. The individual’s value system is constantly questioned and emotional and cognitive experiences which fail to integrate into coherent narrative sequences are explored.
The magnitude of the impact that the abuse has sends shock waves over the entire psychic structure, destroying various modes of organization under the (re)action of waves that give the image of domino pieces, which fall in a chain reaction. Coping with trauma happens, even though it is not facilitated by tragic thinking. The film itself has a dialectical form, which aims at bringing to light everything that threatens the principled and desirable unity of the person from deep down inside. In a deep plane, the film is a speech about suffering and the proximity of death, about the potential to overcome what was abusive in the past, expressing not only a personal dimension, but also a political and social one.
Starting from the ideas of Derrida and Freud, according to which the phantasm of unity, purity and completeness of the individual is inevitable, despite the non-existence of such ideality, the film has at its center an idea related to destabilization. In reality, each character is just a textual effect. In deconstruction, the effect of meaning/truth is produced by the iterability of experiences, instituted by the repetition of similar events, in different generations and characters from varied social backgrounds. We note in the card of the logocentric system the difference that circularly established the autonomy and teleology of the rational principle. Deconstruction emphasizes the idea that the registration of the individual as a free subject in the system depends fundamentally on the acceptance of the condition imposed by subordination. The logic of presence marks Freud’s speech (“No one can be killed in absence”) (Freud, 2014). Derrida claims that, given the fact that the notion of the unconscious is built in opposition to the idea of reason and presence, the model of consciousness, the recourse to the unconscious, complicates and does not guarantee the exit from the problems, dilemmas and limits that the characters face.
Proposing the happenings of the film as essential elements of reality means a reconsideration of the Kantian idea according to which we do not have access to the thing itself, but to its reflections. It is a reconsideration that is doubled by an inversion based on Saussure’s idea, “arbitrary and differential are two correlative qualities” (Saussure, 2002). Taking a step further, establishing the difference as “differential matrix from which phonemes and concepts are determined” (Hobson, 1998), we go in the analysis of the film, like Derrida, beyond the limits of logocentrism, rejecting the criterion of correspondence as a principle of truth/value and moving the interpretation coordinates. The abundance of detail is part of what the film wants to denote.
If “reason as historicity is the condition of sense and language” (Hobson, 1998), certain happenings have the role of dislocating the individual from history and from their symbolic structures, a fact that makes communication possible and should not be seen as associated with a definitive act (the exclusion). According to Derrida, the absurd (in our case the absurdity of situations that lead centripetally to trauma) can only be evoked from within the psychism of the characters, a psychism which, being historically marked by the struggle between madness and logos, introduces, through the principled possibility of an agon or polemos, the return from the excess of hyperbole in language to a simple and intricate expression with vulgarities.
The scenarios make sense by relating individuality to the relationship with the other: “The general structure of the unmotivated trace connects within the same possibility, and they cannot be separated except by abstraction, the structure of the relationship with the other, the movement of temporization, and language as writing” (Hobson, 1998). The film Bucharest Non-Stop refers to a common origin for madness and the Cartesian logos. We glimpse in its scenes the possibility of integrating the ex-centric singularity of madness into the way the characters speak and relate, when the original violence is, in fact, directed against madness. The script is based on the deconstruction of psychism and, consequently, the disintegration of the characters’ personality, by proposing unexpected events (in terms of meaning and outcome). Looking beyond the insufficient/problematic formulations of logocentrism, the film comes to precipitate, through a felicitous association of chance and necessity, new meanings and real configurations of abuse.
Conflict of interests: The authors declare no conflict of interests.