In his book 4 Decades, 3 Years and 2 Months with the Romanian Cinema the Romanian film critic Alex Leo Serban considers Duminica la ora 6 (Sunday at 6 o’clock) as an extreme case of difference between content and form – a story about the invented ‘heroic’ Communist past wrapped in the most modern means of expression of the cinema of the 60s. After having seen the film again many decades after its first viewings my feeling is different. I believe that Lucian Pintilie‘s first film is as daring in content and especially in its subliminal message as it is in its form which clearly shows already the hand of a skilled director, having learned and assimilated all the lessons of the French New Wave and placing them in the service of his cinematographic message.


I see Duminica la ora 6 as a beautiful love story in impossible times,  a story that can happen under any repressive regime. The art of director Pintilie is brilliant in the pacing of the action using repetitive motives (the elevator going down, the dark tunnel leading to an uncertain light which can mean deliverance or death) and in the way he directs his actors (Dan Nutu and Irina Petrescu, young, beautiful, sincere, frightened, desperate). A few scenes are worth being included in anthologies, like the ambiguous end with the run of the hero filmed from the windows of the police car, his tentative to run away towards the deep sea, his so human giving up. All is natural and well directed, with the sole exception of the few sequences were the ‘bourgeois’ police appears and the few lines of dialog which were inserted to please the censorship by locating the action in the fabricated history of the Communist resistance. Seen 45 years after the film making the contrast is too flagrant to avoid the feeling that this scenes where visibly inserted by the director (and maybe script author Ion Mihaileanu) to make the film pass and see the lights of screening – but the language is so different that they look intentionally out of context. My impression is also enforced by the very ‘modern’ look of the heroes and extras, which avoid localization and historical dating, inviting the viewers to consider the heroes contemporary to their own times, and to live the story in the present and not in the past. Again, for a director with the level of skill that Pintilie was already showing at that time, this cannot be coincidental.

Made in the year 1965, a year of crossroads in the Romanian history, the start of a short period of hope at the beginning of the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, Duminica la ora 6 could have signaled a new start for the Romanian cinema which was still forced to use the vocabulary and thematic of the socialist-realist art but was daring to dream to new forms and freedom of expression. The political and artistic hopes were to fade out soon, and Duminica la ora 6 remains one of the few singular moments in a history of Romanian cinema whose destiny was to get back to its natural course only many decades later.