An appropriately murky thriller drawn from recent Romanian history, REQUIEM FOR DOMINIC chronicles the quest of Paul Weiss for the truth about a childhood friend, Dominic Paraschiv, who remained behind in Timisoara. With extensive use of actual footage, including the real Paraschiv on
his deathbed, director Robert Dornhelm and co-screenwriters Felix Mitterer and Michael Kohlmeier have created an atmosphere of ambiguous violence and chaotic loyalties as various groups of armed men suddenly appear, start a small street battle and vanish.
Dominic Paraschiv (August Schmolzer) is initially seen as one of the makeshift guards at the chemical plant where he works. Inexperienced and tired, they are confused by television news reports of mass murders and political turmoil in the district's capital. While one of his colleagues dismisses
the reports as "Hungarian lies" Dominic appears sad and thoughtful. Paraschiv then fires a shot from his double-barrelled shotgun at the ceiling and demands their attention and silence. It is on this note of ambiguity that we meet Paul Weiss (Felix Mitterer), part of an Austrian Red Cross team,
come to bring a wounded Paraschiv back to Vienna. Paraschiv is shown literally tied into a hospital bed with rope netting across his face and body.
Although born in Timisoara, Weiss can speak only rudimentary Romanian, yet he does manage to locate Paraschiv. His friend is being held in a locked ward of the hospital, charged with the terrorist murder of some 80 of his co-workers at the plant. Weiss is even shown a mortuary full of corpses as
apparent proof of Paraschiv's crime. And indeed, on his first day in the country, Weiss did witness random sniping and a small street battle. Demoralized and depressed, he is tempted to return to Vienna, especially when told by a mysterious stranger who is tailing him that Dominic did work for the
Romanian Secret Police, the Securitate. Even the Austrian reporters whom Weiss had met on the train now refer to him as a friend of the "terrorist Paraschiv" whose photograph is featured on the local newspaper's front page.
In a flashback, we are shown that once he had their attention, Paraschiv merely demanded that his colleagues kneel and pray. Amid the political turmoil, as portraits of the Ceausescus are torn down and the Communist Party emblems ripped from the center of the nation's flags, Weiss finally hears
one reassuring voice that demands he find out exactly whom his friend was supposed to have killed. At the disorganized and shabby office of the democratic "front" Weiss learns that nobody was reported killed at the chemical plant. Shortly after Weiss is threatened at knifepoint by a man who seems
to be under the orders of the man who suggested Weiss simply leave the country.
When he tries to get in to see Dominic, Paul Weiss is actually seized and arrested, but has won the friendship of a Viennese reporter, Clara Weber (Viktoria Schubert), who manages to mobilize a cameraman and another journalist to follow the police van. Weiss is soon released, but the episode
reveals an apparent conspiracy between the factory director and the leader of a band of secret policemen. As the dictatorship topples, so does the wall of silence surrounding Dominic's fate. In a flashback, as recalled by the deputy director, we see Dominic's harmless prayers interrupted by the
director who had him shot. Weiss does finally get to see his friend, since the guards are demoralized and just let him go, but it is clear that Paraschiv is near death.
In a grainy videotape, we see the actual Paraschiv declare that "we will only win with love and kindness." An intertitle explains that Dominic Parashiv died a few days after the videotape was made and had been rehabilitated as a victim of repression by the new Romanian government only after the
film itself was released. This revelation only buttresses what one of the Austrian reporters had asked near the film's close: what kind of revolution returns Communist Party members to power and lets former secret policemen name others as their enemies?
Dornhelm's film captures the atmosphere of near civil war that can reign during violent political upheaval. While the daytime streets seem full of joyous crowds and orderly troops, at night the dominant sounds are random gunfire and the deep throb of deisel engines as armored cars patrol the
streets with their searchlights probing the building fronts. When some armed men break into the hotel and storm from room to room, even the Austrian reporters are momentarily scared. In a situation where the innocent are as likely to be attacked by partisan mobs as the guilty, Weiss finds refuge
in a Gypsy encampment. Near the film's end, we see how the real secret police just put on the new national armbands and join the celebratory crowds in the streets.
The most recent events in Romanian politics, the use of organized mobs to silence critics officially labelled as "reactionaries" and the subsequent use of troops against militant workers, would confirm the warning contained in REQUIEM FOR DOMINIC. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: An appropriately murky thriller drawn from recent Romanian history, REQUIEM FOR DOMINIC chronicles the quest of Paul Weiss for the truth about a childhood friend, Dominic Paraschiv, who remained behind in Timisoara. With extensive use of actual footage, in… (more)