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Film / Collective

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Collective is a 2019 film from Romania directed by Alexander Nanau.

It is a documentary about the 2015 Colectiv nightclub fire in Bucharest, and the diluted disinfectants scandal that erupted afterwards. On October 30, 2015, as a metalcore band called "Goodnight to Gravity" played at the Colectiv nightclub, pyrotechnics from the band's show started a fire. The fire quickly spiraled out of control, leading to a mad scramble for the only exit, the front door. 27 people were killed from fire, smoke inhalation, or being trampled to death.

But the deaths did not stop there. In the days and weeks following the fire, an additional 37 people died in hospitals, more than died in the actual fire. This wave of hospital fatalities is investigated by Sports Gazette, a Romanian newspaper. (The film does not stop to explain why a sports magazine started doing hard-hitting investigative reporting about a fire.) The Gazette soon uncovers shocking information about the state of Romanian hospitals. The investigation reveals that disinfectants sold by a Romanian pharmaceutical firm are routinely diluted to as little as 10% of their recommended strength, rendering them largely useless. As a consequence bacterial infections rage unchecked, killing the vulnerable burn victims.

The Romanian government is toppled by the mass public outrage. A new Minister of Health, one Vlad Voiculescu, hopes to root out the corruption that plagues Romanian health care, but things keep getting worse and worse.


  • All Part of the Show: As fire burst out in the rafters, the crowd is slow to react, and the lead singer of Goodnight to Gravity has to specifically tell them that it's not part of the show. (That lead singer was the only member of the five-man band that survived.)
  • Artificial Limbs: A woman suffers horrifying injuries in the fire that include the loss of her right hand. Soon she's shown receiving what appears to be a state-of-the-art electronic hand that allows her to grasp and lift objects.
  • Book Ends: The first scene shows Narcis Hogea at a meeting of bereaved families, talking about his son's death at a Romanian hospital. The last scene returns to Hogea
  • Documentary: A documentary of the Colectiv nightclub fire and the subsequent scandal about diluted disinfectants and poor conditions in Romanian hospitals. It adopts a fly-on-the-wall approach, with no Narrator and no Talking Heads.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title comes from the name of the nightclub, which was itself a nod to collective farms from the Communist era. The second meaning alludes to the collective culpability of many aspects of Romanian society—government, regulating agencies, pharmaceuticals, and health care—that allowed the tragedy to happen.
  • The Faceless: A nurse who goes to Sports Express to tell the reporters about unsanitary conditions in hospitals is only photographed from behind, and from a distance.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: A Real Life example, as a doctor in a Romanian hospital takes a ghastly cell phone video of a patient's wound. The video zooms in to an extreme close-up to show that the wound is infested with maggots.
  • He Knows Too Much: Discussed Trope. Just a few weeks after the scandal regarding the diluted disinfectants blows up, Hexi Pharma CEO Dan Condrea is killed when he crashes his car while driving 100 mph. The authorities are inclined to write it off as a suicide but the staff of the Sports Gazette speculates that "the Mafia state" murdered him to stop him from talking about the endemic corruption and bribery in the Ministry of Health and in the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
  • How We Got Here: The first scene shows a meeting of people who had loved ones die under hospital care after the fire. After the opening credits the story jumps back to the actual fire of October 30, 2015.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The film mostly follows Express reporter Cătălin Tolontan, who wrote a series of articles about the fire and the diluted disinfectant scandal, and is often seen firing questions at government ministers. One scene shows Tolontan and a colleague in a car outside of Hexi Pharma, taking surreptitious pictures of people leaving the building. Other scenes in the newsroom show reporters talking about the story.
  • Libation for the Dead: The film ends with the Hogea family visiting their son's grave; after the men down shots of liquor Narcis pours one out on his son's grave.
  • No OSHA Compliance: It's only mentioned in passing, as the film focuses on the hospital disinfectant scandal that followed, but the reporting about the fire explains that there were no emergency fire exits in the nightclub, only the front door, which was a major cause of the fatalities that night.
  • One-Word Title: Collective, that being the nightclub where the fire happened.
  • The Place: The Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest.
  • Stealing from the Till: Part of the endemic corruption in Romanian health care. Towards the end of the movie reporters from the Gazette take pictures of a corrupt hospital administrator outside his home that was purchased with hospital money. Then two accountants from the man's hospital appear in the newspaper's office with a list of fake invoices that the manager has used to embezzle hospital funds.
  • Stock Footage: Terrifying cell phone videos of the fire breaking out, the mad scramble that followed, and the shrieks of panic as the building quickly filled with smoke.
  • The Stool Pigeon: The Romanian doctor who takes the cell phone video of a patient's maggot-infested wound. When Minister Voiculescu fails to conceal his irritation over the doctor making the cell phone video public, she says she reported it to hospital management, but they told her to report to her manager, who had just stated publicly that their hospital had the "best conditions" of hygiene.
  • Switch to English: Minister Voiculescu, when discussing how his own ministry was ridden with corruption, feels the need to drop into English to say "They don't give a fuck about anything out there."