Between Pain and Amen
is an historical and very intense drama. It deals with historical facts and emotional status of the persons involved with a very realistic and detailed point of view.
The film it’s about the story of a young composer and double bass virtuoso, who returns to Romania after studying in Vienna. He is arrested by the political police soon after getting engaged and taken to the Pitesti prison, where a brainwashing and torture-based experiment is under way. The horrible communist experiment, copied after the Soviet model, is headed by the much-feared Ciumau. The composer survives unimaginable torture due to his strong religious belief and composes Ode to God. His music will eventually save his fiancee, Lia.
Music is a very important character of the film and underlines all the steps of the story. The film is independent and inspired by true events but during the whole story you can never feel limits due to a limited budget production.
Every aspects is refined and powerful from the point of view of the cinematic language.
Cinematography is full of shadows and contrasts like the story told. Actors are very well chosen and directed. All the performances of the actors are believable and strong.
Direction is very elegant and clever, always searching for the better frame to tell this cruel story.
All these qualities let the audience to feel like to be inside the prison as the main characters all during the film.
The talented director of Between Pain and Amen
(2019) is Toma Enache
and this film is his second feature. Always directed by Toma Enache you can find Armânii, from the famous Manakia to I’m not famous…
(documentary, 2015), and I’m Not Famous but I’m Aromanian
, his first feature film in Aromanian, released in 2013.
About this film he said: “Between Pain and Amen
brings before the audience a heart-breaking story that took place in a Romanian prison during the communist regime, the venue for a horrible experiment of the re-education through torture.
The film is independent and inspired by true events that had a very strong impact on me when I learned about them, whether they happened in the Sighet Prison, the Pitesti Prison or somewhere else in the country. I had the privilege to speak directly to some of the few survivors of the the horrible experiment, which helped me better understand how things had happened.
The biographies of the main characters include terrible experiences, lived by thousands of political prisoners during the communist dictatorship, but also the essence of some unique and extremely strong people, of outstanding moral character.
My intention is to show that there is another world beyond this concrete world, an over-sensitive world with transcendental values (love, God, kindness), that there is a value superior to life, whose effect is precisely the triumph of the latter, when everything seems lost.
I believe it is time for the brutal reality of the Pitesti Phenomenon, a taboo subject in Romania for tens of years, which caused unimaginable suffering to an impressive number of people, to be finally be spoken out loud, in a film.”
We can also add that the film is based on the Pitesti Experiment, also know as the Pitesti Phenomenon, the largest and most aggressive brainwashing experiment in modern history, conducted by the Romanian communist authorities between 1949–1952 and aimed at reeducating the elites by erasing their identity and replacing it with a new, Bolshevik one.
During this period, around 600 students aged 18 to 27, were systematically and brutally tortured in Pitesti Prison and forced to torture each other thus becoming the aggressors of their own colleagues and friends. The atheistic and anti-Christian communist regime wanted to strip them of their human dignity, force them to compromise their principles, deny their faith and their values. Around 200 people were tortured to death in Pitesti Prison alone and hundreds were crippled. Most of the people who got out alive confessed they only resisted due to their strong faith in God.
From Pitesti, the experiment extended to other Romanian prisons such as Gherla, Targu Ocna, Ocnele Mari, Targsor, Baia Sprie and Aiud, to name but a few.
The number of prisoners passed through the experiment is estimated at 1,000 to 5,000. The exact number is not known and little has been done ever since to find it out. The people responsible for these atrocities were never punished. Most former prisons have been left in ruins or demolished and the deaths have never been investigated.
Moreover Between Pain and Amen
is the only feature film on this topic made in Romania since the fall of communism, in 1989. No public funds have been allocated to it, this being an entirely independent production.
The director and scriptwriters had the privilege to speak directly to some of the survivors. Three of them are still alive today. They say they have forgiven their torturers.
Between Pain and Amen
won the monthly competition at Florence film Award as Best Direction feature film, Best Production designer (also in the Annual Competition) and Honorable Mention for Make Up and Hairstyling.