Journal of European Studies

The rhetoric of leaving, or the mirage of the fetishized West in Cristian Mungiu’s /Occident/

by Adriana Cordali Gradea (2018)

In one of his earlier films, Occident (2002), Cristian Mungiu showcases the East–West divide in post-communist Romania. First, the rhetoric of leaving and the rhetoric of staying are complex historical legacies of the communist period, when communist propaganda demonized capitalism and the West. In the communist totalitarian public rhetoric, East–West binaries emphasized the East and communism, which led to a fetishization of the West in the private sphere. I call the motility of predominant discourses between private and public spheres the dialectic of rhetoric, which is also always historical. Secondly, the fetish of the West is a kind of Occidentalism, or a reversed Orientalism, and it is made apparent in the film’s title. The film’s characters are trapped between binaries, given that all these factors have social, political and psychological consequences on people’s lives. Compositionally, the film’s multiple narrative planes compile a postmodern, fragmented structure, mirroring the breakdown of rhetorical master-narratives in post-communism.

binaries, East–West, emigration, fetish, Cristian Mungiu, Occident, post-communism, rhetoric.

Adriana Cordali Gradea is a PhD candidate in English Studies at Illinois State University, specializing in visual rhetoric and cultural theory. She has recently served as the Chair of the Romanian Forum of the Modern Language Association (2016–17). Her 2014 Rhetoric Review article ‘Embroidered feminist rhetoric in Andrea Dezső’s Lessons from My Mother’ received the 2015 Florence Howe Award in Anglophone Languages and Literatures of the Women’s Caucus for the MLA. She has published both critical works and prose, and her research and teaching in terests in clude public discourse, political rhetoric, visual rhetoric, film studies, feminism, cultural and critical theory, and (post-)communist, (post-)totalitarian and (post-)colonial rhetorical studies.
(Corresponding Author: Adriana Cordali Gradea, Illinois State University, Department of English, Adlai E. Stevenson Bldg. 409, Campus Box 4240, Normal, IL 61790-4240, USA. Email:


Gradea, Adriana Cordali
The rhetoric of leaving, or the mirage of the fetishized West in Cristian Mungiu’s /Occident/.
In: Journal of European Studies 48,3-4 (Nov 2018), pp. 250-264.