Directors, Mona Nicoară and Dana Bunescu, in The Distance Between Me and Me have given us a vivid portrait of the poet, musician, intellectual, and committed communist Nina Cassian who lived in Romania from her birth in 1924 until she was forced into exile in 1985. More than that, their film shows us the conflicts between an artist, seeking to expose the world around her, and the government of her country, seeking to cover up that same world.
Romania after World War II became a dictatorship under the influence of the USSR. The film shows Cassian being interviewed during this period and also appearing in a state-sponsored film where she appears at a gathering of factory workers and discusses her poetry. The 'workers' express dissatisfaction with her poetry and all modern poetry as being too difficult to understand, even to college educated workers.
Cassian tells us, in the lengthy interview done with her by the filmmakers in the United States toward the end of Cassian's life. She reveals that 'metaphors' were banned in Romania for many years. She explains that she was forced to turn to writing music since, she explains, the censors did not know what to make of a major C or minor C - did major C mean freedom or was did it mean that there was a longing to be free?
The film examines the files of the State Security apparatus that kept her under surveillance for years. Many people urged her to flee, but she refused since Romania was her country and she loved it, just as she loved Communism which she believes never existed in Romania or the USSR.
The Distance Between Me and Me is more relevant today than ever. It shows us what can happen to a country that has embraced 'alternative facts' and how art can save what is left of the truth in such a country.