Andrei Cohn | Arest

After having watched Andrei Cohn’s Arest, we were shaking, with a sort of rage that could not find its target. We felt the torture, on the screen but also in our souls. We tried to formulate our feelings into words, to understand, to interpret. Then we decided to address ourselves to Andrei Cohn himself, still charged with a deep turmoil…

Here is the very exciting interview with Andrei Cohn on confrontation with the past, the normality of evil, the function of his particular way of editing, the shooting set, and the consequences of this film on the audience.

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore | Audio/Video: Ruth Baettig



Audio-Interview with Andrei Cohn on Arest at the festival Black Movie Geneva

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Arest is not the first movie to focus on torture, but Andrei Cohn’s fictional version in late Eighties Romania is able to reach a realistic intensity that would be impossible to achieve with any documentary, be it made of direct witnessing or reflected re-enactments. The two actors, Iulian Postelnicu and Alexandru Papadopol, excel with an incredible tour de force that explores the victim-perpetrator relationship in its most subtle and perverse version, the one where normality and humanity, and sometimes even sympathy, are all blended together. A kind of normalisation of the regime restrictions in the Seventies and Eighties in Romania made the censorship less evident, and then the paranoid repression more invisible and devious. Through Cohn and Alexandru Negoescu’s accurate script, we are initiated in to a chamber drama where intimacy and evil calmly escalate, yet always leave enough room for the emergence of common sense and hope –thanks also to a non-organic editing style where the cuts become eventual sources of hope themselves. With few physical aggressions, the evil heavily hurts for its mediocrity. The drama of torture evolves into the tragedy of mistrust and betrayal, which involves the entire picture of Romanian society. The more this tragedy is human, the more we feel the devastating force of human evil. Arest shows how humans’ depravity is not brutality but perversity, where consciousness and culture are far from being absent.

A dilemma arises. One could say that this kind of aching filmic experience gives us a mature awareness of the risks of any ideologic conformism, and yet the price to pay could be very high: the assumption of a deep anthropological pessimism. Moreover, one could suspect that the fact that we have known – indirectly, but vividly, through a film – the lower degree of human evil could even make us less sensitive to it. Of course, any resistance to the chance to show all of this will necessarily amount to censorship or self-censorship. Here is the dilemma. Which kind of welcome would we be able to give to this real side of humanity?

Arest is a highly intelligent film that will leave an indelible trace – or wound – in our souls, is a film that needs to be discussed, in search for a possible healing – or an impossible healing from humanity itself.


Arest | Film | Andrei Cohn | ROM 2019 | 126’ | Black Movie Geneva 2020

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First published: January 30, 2020