Requiem for Dominic
1991 Directed by Robert Dornhelm. Starring Felix Mitterer, Viktoria Schubert, August Schmolzer, Angelica Schutz, Antonia Rados, Nikolas Vogel.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 26, 1991
Dateline: Romania, Christmas week 1989. It's the chaotic days preceding the overthrow of the Ceausescu tyranny. Requiem for Dominic is a psychodrama based on a true story that combines actual video footage of the Romanian revolt with filmed fictional narrative. The movie is a gripping tale told vividly and disarmingly. It follows the character of Paul Weiss as he returns from Vienna to his childhood home of Temesvar (the cradle of the Romanian uprising). His mission is to retrieve his boyhood friend, Dominic Paraschiv, who has been wounded in the bloodshed, and bring him back to Vienna for medical care. Paul arrives at the hospital only to be refused access to Dominic who is being held in isolation as a terrorist accused of murdering eighty fellow employees in a chemical factory. Dominic has been labeled "the butcher of Temesvar" and is being held, wounded, in his hospital bed restrained with animal netting and probed with videocameras. Director Dornhelm, in actuality, was a childhood friend of the real Dominic Paraschiv who was only exonerated after his death. The making of this film is Dornhelm's personal quest into the truth of the affair. Dominic's wife tells Paul that the charges are fabricated and Paul can hardly believe the charges himself but when faced with the vile evidence of the eighty decomposing corpses, it becomes hard to know what's true and what's not. Journalists are crawling everywhere searching out the truths in all the lies of the Ceausescu regime and its downfall. Requiem for Dominic owes large debts to Graham Greene and Costa-Gavras's Z, though its footage shot in the weeks immediately following the revolt lends Requiem a documentary feel that Greene's fictions would never capture and Requiem's portrait of a people swept up in a dangerous commotion of disorder and confusion conveys a level of moral ambiguity that Costa-Gavras never indulges. Requiem best depicts the devastating aftermath of rebellion and the venomous outburst that erupts when long-repressed grievances are unfettered. Its deft blend of documentary news footage and narrative fiction is accomplished seamlessly. As soon as you find yourself getting caught up in the riveting realism of the movie, you become engrossed in the story of the unraveling political intrigue. It's widely known that truth is the first casualty of war: Requiem for Dominic is a compelling and honest illustration of that sad fact.