Director/ Alexander Nanau
Watched on Amazon
Rating 3.5/5


If you happen to watch the trailer of Collective before watching the film, you’ll think you’re in store for a breathless political thriller with nothing but the fate of democracy at stake, an edge-of-your-seat experience replete with double-crosses, deep throats, and diabolical villains, set to a pounding score and edited with machine gun pacing.

Um, hardly.

Collective does indeed feature dark secrets, whistle blowers, villains, corrupt bureaucrats and fearless journalists, but the style of the actual film, if you decide to watch it, is much more sedate and quiet and even plodding than you’d expect. Well, more plodding than you’d expect from an American film, but since this film is Romanian, and it revolves around an incident that few people outside Romania will have heard of, and Romanian filmmakers have a way of doggedly adhering to the veracity of their situations and environments with a kind of compulsive miserablism, than the plodding is par for the course.

This is not in any way to say the film should be skipped. I respected director Alexander Nanau’s composed and unflappable approach, his attention to accuracy and details and chronology, his total commitment to a direct cinema style of documenting the unfolding events, the absence of music and cliffhanging plot turns and idealized crusaders. But the story–of a hospital cover-up of infected solvents used to treat the burn victims of a horrendous nightclub fire–despite its basis in real tragedy, despite the utter rot of the systems being exposed, is still an arcane one that would probably never be told in an American documentary.

Or, more to the point, it could be told, but only if the facts of the case were hyped, the plot dramatized with skeezy reenactments, the heroes and villains reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes, and the whole thing chopped up into six 45-minute episodes and presented as a mini-series on Netflix set to an aggressive non-stop soundtrack of thrumming drones and overwrought suspenseful piano arpeggios. In other words, the exact kind of movie the film’s trailer tricks us into thinking that it is.