Contemporary Romanian Cinema. The History of an Unexpected Miracle, Dominique Nasta


  • Entry on Romania in the Handbook of Soviet and East European Films and Filmmakers (1992): “Like Romania itself, Romanian cinema has remained obscure. The sparse international distribution of its films has made it remote and unfamiliar. Until recently, it has been aesthetically insignificant, adhering rigidly to the somehow formulaic necessities imposed by film’s illustrative and ideological function in a totalitarian regime. For the reasons, Romanian cinema has not gained the world stature of other Eastern European cinema. (Roof 1992:309).
  • with Romanian contemporary cinema present for more than a decade at important film festivals over the world , winning prizes and being an identifiable part of  European co-production, distribution and training circuits, the appropriate moment has come to look at Romania’s film history, in an attempt to explain and analyse those aspects that have shaped and made it relatively unique today.
  • directors who have been influential upon development and positioning of Romanian film at home and abroad: Dan Pita, Lucian Pintilie, Mircea Daneliouc, Nae Caranfil, Cristian Mungiu
  • emphasis on both: socio-historical background that has conditioned the emergence of specific trends (e.g. film minimalism) and cinematically significant characteristics of individual works.
  • Balkan and Latin features particular to Romanian films
  • soundtracks often prove as important for decoding a film as visuals

Difficult Beginnings

  • a Latin island set in a sea of Slavic neighbours -> consistently felt close to identities and sources somehow out of reach -> issue of national identity – at the center of socio-political debates
  • the main Romanian symbolic paradigm is to be found in the archetypal tale of Miorita. 
  • Lucian Blaga, The Mioritic Space (1936): the ballad – geography of the Romanian poetic imagination; a philosophical attempt to explain the Romanian spirit through landscape – a stylistic matrix of Romanian culture
  • Mircea Eliade – Miorita = a collective answer to the terrors inflicted by history; the hero finds meaning in his tragic fate because he does not consider it a personal event, but rather a mythical happening
  • the shepherd provides an answer to an absurdist situation, countering death and misfortune through a nuptial fairy tale – the cosmic marriage from Miorita is a mythical one, and example of cosmic Christianity – part pagan, part Christian – clearly dominated by nostalgia for nature
  • as many case studies of significant past and present films will try to show, fatality is indeed at the core of the Romanian psyche, precisely counterbalanced by a lot of black humor, spontaneity and ironic wit.
  • mid-way between a fatalistic resignation and the tragicomic absurdist dimension present in a number of filmic productions, the Romanian cultural realm has always manifested an obvious penchant for reinterpreting major historical events.
  • Paul Ricouer: time of fiction and historical time – the deliberated mixture of the both – crucial aspect for decoding themes and styles conveyed by Romanian culture in genera and by fiction and non-fiction films in particular.
  • Romanian contemporary fiction films are extremely close to Ricoueur’s redefinition of Aristotle’s three-fold mimesis as developed in his seminal survey Time and Narrative: time of fiction, historical time and audience reception time all mix into one coherent signifying entity.
  • “We find a basic indication of the way in which the fictive experience of time relates in its own way to lived temporality and time perceived as a dimension of the world in the fact that the epic, the drama and the novel characters, events and places… Nevertheless, we would be sorely mistaken if we were to conclude that is just the opposite. From the mere fact that the narrator and the leading characters are fictional, all references to real historical events are divested of their function of standing for the historical past and are set on a par with the unreal status of the other events.” (1990, III: 129)
  • three-fold mimesis: mimesis 1 (prefiguration) – tries to understand human action in its semantics and temporality; mimesis 2 (configuration) – opens the kingdom of ‘what if?’ and creates narrative configurations which are precisely meant to antonyms of historically validated, true stories – narrated tine for Ricouer constitutes an alternative to the classical representation of time as flowing from the past to the future; mimesis 3 (refiguration) – the reading/interpretative process – the movement by which the work of art unfolds, as it were, a world ahead of itself.
  • the different types of socio-political and economic upheavals which have prevented Romanian filmmakers paradoxically engendered, as in other neighbouring countries in the Soviet sphere, codified modes of expression. Different spatiotemporal lines co-exist inside such films: their common ground often lies in a joke, a song or a poem

The Ups and Downs of a Faltering Film Industry

  • early screenings of Lumiere films – Bucharest, May 1896
  • presence of foreign cameramen shooting on location their Romanian shorts ‘vues roumaines’ – local topics
  • in 1908 – 1909, many theatres equipped to show newsreels and fiction films alternating with vaudeville numbers began to be built, first in Bucharest and later on in other important economic and cultural cities (Iasi, Cluj, Sibiu)
  • 1912, Independenta Romaniei (The Independence War), Grigore Brezeanu/Aristide Demetriade – first film that has been preserved – Restul e tacere (The Rest Is Silence), 2007, Nae Caranfil
  • Amor Fatal (Fatal Love) and Insir-te Margarite (Spin a Yarn), 1911 (Brezeanu and Demetriade) first fiction features produced in Romania – produced by Pathe-Bucharest – haven’t been preseved
  • Leon Popescu – film business via his company Filmul de Arta Leon Popescu
  • wartime studios – Cluj
  • during the first 2 decades of Romanian cinema’s existence, production scenes used well-known literary figures as screenwriters (Liviu Rebreanu, Mihail Sadoveanu, Victor Eftimiu, I.L. Caragiale)
  • most frequently adapted author – I.L. Caragiale – his tragicomic, sarcastic depiction of Romanian society has left its mark on classical film directors such as Jean Georgescu through to contemporary auteurs of the twenty-first century, such as Corneliu Porumboiu
  • french and German productions – filmed in Romania
  • financed by the Third Reich -> nationalist productions
  • O noapte furtunoasa (A Stormy Night), 1942, Jean Georgescu – first internationally acclaimed Romanian box-office hit produced by the ONC

Ground Zero

  • 23 August 1944 – Romania joined the anti-Nazi alliance -> the Soviet Union imposed Communism, leaving the country with no other possible political alternative
  • Cinema of the Other Europe, Dina Iordanova -post World War II film periodisation that includes 5 distinct periods; 1. 2949-1956 – totalitarianism and isolation; 1956 – the official end of Stalinism and the failed anti-Communism Hungarian uprising; – film distribution was placed under Communist political supervision, directors were sent to the Soviet State Film Institutes and given large doses of ideological indoctrination, along with training in Socialist film techniques
  • Rasuna Valea (The Valley Resaunds), 1949, Paul Calinescu – heralded as the first film of ‘a new world’
  •   Afacerea Protar (The Protar File), 1955, Haralambie Boros, adapted from the playwright by Mihail Sebastian – first Romanian film to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival
  • late 1950s – spirit of criticism – the birth of the intellectual reaction against state-directed orthodoxy in both politics and the arts.
  • after 1953 (Stalin’s death) – Victor Iliu – most important film school founder – teacher and director, inspired by Eisenstein’s pioneering theories -> Liviu Ciulei, Lucian Pintilie, Radu Gabrea
  • mass films genres timidly emerged in the late 1950s – animated films, thrillers, comedies
  • Ion Popescu-Gopo – leading figure in Romanian animated film – anti-Disney minimalist cartoon creations – Scurta Istorie (A Short History), 1956, Homo Sapiens, 1960, Allo, Hallo, 1963 – 2 thematic constants: the advent of humanity represented by Little Man and an overtly  poetic dimension.
  • 1957 Short Film Palme d’Or – A Short History

Bright Intervals

Romania’s Short-lived Thaw

  • Dina Iordanova
  • late 1950’s Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, Prime Minister, rejected the Thaw theses adopted by neighboring countries
  • Nicolae Ceausecu
  • Romanian Film Archive – founded in 1957
  • Duminica la ora sase (Sunday at Six, Lucian Pintilie, 1965), Cartierul Veseliei (The Gaiety District, Manole Marcus, 1967) – lacked an optimistic spirit and did not depict dramatic victories for the early Communist movement: they collectively offered an impression of isolated Marxism constantly losing members to betrayal in a near-hopeless attempt to raise class-consciousness.
  • censorship had continued to be very active and no great liberty in subject matter or dialogue was granted to filmmakers
  • a handful of atypical filmmakers did not make concessions to the commercial strain of imposed genre films. Two of them made highly original films that were shown in European festival circuit and became internationally acclaimed classics: Liviu Ciulei, Lucian Pintilie
  • Liviu Ciulei, Padurea Spanzuratilor (The Forest of the Hanged) – the novel adaptation is very innovative: all the “I” disappears and is changed into subjective audio-visual flashes; images of the front and discussions in headquarters are depicted with an extraordinary gift for expressive details.
  • Meandre(1967) Mircea Saucan

Romanian Cinema in the 1970’s

Versatility on the Menu

  • the end of the Romanian Thaw – which lasted less than a decade – was characterized by 2 events: 10th Party Congress Report in August 1969 that the new society would be superior to capitalist societies from all perspectives, overtly criticising former established contacts with the Western world; 2. Ceausescus’ trip to China and North Korea in May 1971 – highly tempted him to introduce methods of indoctrination used by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The politicised media thus initiated the publication of the famous July 1971 Theses. Liberalisation movements were contained and a personality cult was installed, so as to consolidate Ceausescu’s position as a unique Communist leader among those active in the East European bloc.
  • Film, more than any other cultural field, had to align itself to this new line. Thematic and structural changes were most perceptible in the historical sub-genre and in productions inspired by ideologically related past and present topics. Two main concepts dominated the Romanian cultural context. The first stressed Romania’s territorial continuity since time immemorial. The slogan “We have been here for two thousand years” lasted for more than a decade and infested all cultural domains from literature to film, including  poetry, song, dance and painting. The second insisted on the fact the Romanian artist was mean to create works with strong political/ideological connotations.
  • 1970 – 2 trends: 1. the official trend in accordance with the Party line included genre films, historical epics and adaptations, innocent comedies, the anti-fascist thrillers and films formatted for children and/or adolescents; 2. a more peripheral trend focused both on heritage films and on films with more daring contemporary topics. Alongside established filmmakers, this trend showcased a new generation of fresh graduates from the National Film and Theatre Insittute which would prove pivotal in the next years: Dan Pita, Mircea Veroiu, Stere Gulea, Dinu Tanase

Experiments in Docu-Fiction and Heritage Film Adaptation

  • the peripheral trend’s ringleaders from the 1970s were Mircea Veroiu and Dan Pita
  • Apa ca un bivol negru (Water Like a Black Buffalo, 1970) – semi-documentary manifesto
  • Nunta de piatra (Stone Wedding, 1971), Dan Pita – Fefeleaga, La o nunta (Ion Agarbiceanu – Miorita
  • the wedding – one of the key tropes of Balkan cinema
  • Duhul Aurului (Lust for Gold, 1974) – very elaborate set design, close to photographic tableaux (Radu Boruzescu and Sturmer)
  • Lada (The Chest), Dan Pita – naturalist elements echoing Emile Zola or Frank Norris – rhetorical trope called ‘chiasmus’
  • Felix si Otilia (Felix and Otilia), Iulian Mihu, 1971 – set and costume designs by Miruna and Radu Boruzescu, cinematographers Gheorghe Fischer, Alexandru Intorsureanu – almost Melies-like chromatic impacts
  • Dincolo de pod (Beyond the Bridge), Mircea Veroiu, 1976 – adaptation of Mara. cinematography by Calin Ghibu – Vermeer-like visual compositions
  • Inainte de tacere (Before There Was Silence), Alexa Visarion, 1978 – inspired reworking of a famous Ion Luca Caragiale naturalistic novella In vreme de razboi (In Times of War) – the film’s general tone often echoes theatrical staging, despite frequent naturalistic outdoor scenes: chiaroscuro tableau-like shots with candle lighting, synaesthesia states enhanced by challenging sound designs. There is no additional music, only some authentic folklore purposefully sung in a false key.
  • Morometii (The Moromete Family), Stere Gulea, 1987

Strange Forebondings: Deviant Everyday Topics on Film

  • Ceausescu’s  obsession with industrialization and the politics of austerity enhanced by his 1980 decision to pay the entire foreign dept, as well as his profound hostility to market oriented reforms, led to the dramatic decline of living conditions and to the growth of collective discontent. Unorthodox initiatives in the field of external politics were meant to cover up from the West the growing domestic repression of the late 1970s. The economic situation worsened after 1975 and accelerated the country’s economic and social decline. From 1972 onwards members of the Ministry of Culture regularly visited all cultural events: they provided indications and suggested changes. Theatre and film studios, concert and opera houses and recording and publishing companies were also rigorously controlled. Screenplays were discussed and negotiated for months, sometimes years, such that the final results were disappointing because too many changes and compromises had been made. Many films were shelved of delayed waiting for changes to be made. The ubiquity of censorship had serious consequences for artistic creations in general: on the one hand there was the constant temptation of self-censorship that drove gifted artists to give up sincerity. On the other hand, the same artists aimed at complicity with an audience whom they could satisfy by means of parabolic, encoded hints about the ongoing absurd situation.
  • Suta de lei (One Hundred Lei), Mircea Seucan, 1973 – highly controversial film; elaborate avant-garde and experimental audio-visual as in Meanders.
  • Saucan left Romania for Israel after serious mental breakdown due to the failure of such a controversial project. – a copy of the uncut version was shown in 1990 in Buchared and in European festivals over the world during retrospectives.
  • Ilustrate cu flori de camp (Postcards with Flowers), Andrei Blaier, 1974  – probably the first Romanian film about an abortion and its tragic consequences (4,3,2 – Mungiu)
  • films by women directors appear as exceptions in the Romanian film industry
  • Stop cadru la masa (Snapshot Around the Family Table), 1979, Ada Pistinier – first long feature film after a career in documentary filmmaking
  • Mere Rosi i(Red Apples), Alexandru Tatos, 1976 – lighter more comic variation on the cinema of ‘moral concern’ from the Romanian 1970s.
  • Secvente (Sequences) 1982, Alexandru Tatos – rated as fifth best in 2008 Top Ten Romanian Films of all time and considered a milestone for contemporary directors such as Cristi Puiu. – the film is yet another variation of the same paradigm, that of ‘revealing while filming’
  • in his Diary, Tatos explains how the sketch Four Slaps was filmed in eight days and was subsequently structured as a portmanteau project. Diary entries: ‘Thank God they accepted this new version’, ‘They finally agreed to leave it as I planned it’ – 3 episodes: The Pone Call, The Restaurant and The Rehearsal, full of very interesting details of Romanian everyday life under Communism

A Filmmaker for All Seasons 

  • docu-fiction debut
  • films co-directed with Mircea Veroiu
  • polymorphous, almost paradoxical oeuvre
  • highly versatile, he approaced and dealt with all cinematic genres: shorts (Viata in roz/Life in Pink), important docu-fictions, realistic films dealing with everyday topics, heritage films, television series, Romanian-style westerns, encrypted (metaphorical)cinema and less inspired post-communist naturalistic films on controversial topics.
  • Filip cel Bun (Filip the Kind, 1974) – probably the most comprehensive chronicles of Romanian city life on film.
  • Tanase Scatiu (A Summer’s Tale, 1976), adapted from a novel by Duiliu Zamfirescu – close to the spirit of Tolstoy
  • Concurs (Contest, 1982), part of the encrypted cinema trend; the film took 2 years to reach the country’s screens. – Czech New Wave, Jan Nemec’s O slavnosty a hostech (Report on the Party and the Guests, 1967).
  • a contest organized for a group of employees being a pretext for depicting a totalitarian society dominated by an absurdist bureaucracy; the woods if are purposefully filled with traps. The participant lose control over their own situation to the point of not knowing who they are any longer – a closed universe in the Kafkaesque tradition is obviously ideal for proving to what point the individual is trapped, unable to go beyond the limits of an imposed territory: if he does not stick to the rules he might die, commit suicide, be eliminated or become a mere shadow.
  • the young rebel (Claudiu Bleont), nicknamed ‘pustiul’ (the kid), is unwilling to obey, a dissident at the periphery of society, unable to impose his own truth and perpetually ambiguous; he also heralds a final apocalyptic event
  • Adrian Enescu – synthesized electronic music
  • East European paradigmatic white horse
  • “Behind each contest participant here looms a member from the Ceausescu government. The one walking around with a broken compass stands for the Five Year Plan chief, the one who fakes death as the Minister of Justice. Besides, they will make a lot of mistakes finishing the contest in a totally inglorious manner.
  • Faleze de nisip (Sand Cliffs, 1983) – both a challenging exercise in theme and style and a quite unique care of ideological censorship and denigration in the history of Romanian cinema before 1989 (Zile de nisip/Days of Sand, 1979, Bujor Nedelcovici. – a rare response to the bleak context of an ever-growing cult of personality, the film was withdrawn from the distribution circuit a couple of days after its first screening and has its real premiere in 1990.
  • opening credit unfold according to the same pattern as Concurs
  • the suspenseful, strange atmosphere of the beach investigation scenes somehow echoes the mystery which derives from the arrival of the young man in Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water, 1962
  • Pita explained that Sand Cliffs was meant to be decoded in the same way as Contes: “the young hero kills the Communist Establishment, as represented by the doctor”.
  • the film was highly criticized by Ceausescu in person on the occasion of the Mangalia Conference, August 1983.
  • the conference marked a new peak in the history of neo-Stalinist absurdity: most of the leader’s discourses centered around the nationalist issue of the perfect Romanian worker, free of any moral or psychological impurity.
  • “FIlm industry needs to accomplish important missions. We need good films that should portray real models for life and work. But comrades, I have just watched a film that not only misses this point: it also presents elements from the periphery of society that should never be shown by filmmakers and screenwriters. […] The film I’m talking about is potraying a young worker from the Black Sea coast who has nothing to do with present day workers […] The director and screenwriter of this film are not familiar with today’s heroes. Such films should not be produced. […] How come the ideological Commisio hasn’t done its work properly? How come such a distorted image of our working class has been authorized? We do not need such a film, we need an art that should portray our new man the man we are building nowadays… Our present-day reality is wonderful and needs to be highlighted.”
  • Pas in doi (Paso Doble, 1985) quite close to an allegory of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
  • eulogy to the spirit of Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962)
  • despite portraying extremely bleak times (last years of Communist dictatorship), this is an unusually free film, close to the modernist trend of the factory world seen as a surrealist universe.
  • constant use of filters and deforming lenses – cinematography Marin Stanciu, mix of electronic music and music by Joseph Haydn – create an audio-visual universe where emotion prevails over any form of reality; Haydn’s positive message about a better world remains an encrypted allegory.
  • as oneiric but less metaphoric and encoded than Contest, the film nonetheless contains lots of openly mystical references of the kind often inserted by East European directors.
  • corridors, paths, and infinite roads seem to be recurrent motifs in Pita’s cinematic universe – the camera tracks over shiny, transparent, almost surreal paths suggesting to the audience that they are entering some miraculous almost unreal universe.
  • Noiembrie, ultimul bal (November, the Last Ball), 1987 – based on a novel by Mihail Sadoveanu
  • Rochia alba de dantela (The White Lace Dress), 1988
  • both less innovative films
  • like most directors who worked under Communist pressure for quite a while, the post-Communist Transition was not an easy one for Dan Pita. Romanian critics considered that he had lost his touch and could not face the change of paradigm.
  • Hotel de lux (Luxury Hotel), 1992
  • Pepe si Fifi (Pepe and Fifi), 1994
  • both fared quite well on the national and international circuit and remain milestones for their indisputable power in conveying Romania’s zeitgeist after Ceausescu’s long-expected fall
  • as would be the case with many East European directors, Pita obviously plunged into a kind of affected naturalism, with deliberately perverted characters in desolate locations, the apocalyptic mood being a common denominator of humans alienated by years of dictatorship.
  • Hotel de lux is a nightmarish parable aiming to unveil the mechanisms of dictatorship in a challenging, albeit irritating way. For Yoram Allon, the film is a daring potrayal of the totalitarian repression soon after the fall of the regime, “vomiting the vitriol welling up for decades” (Allon 2002).
  • The film was partly filmed on location in the pharaonic ‘People’s House’.
  • the hotel = The state
  • Alex (Valentin Teodosiu), the newly promoted manager of a mysterious restaurant in a gigantic hotel, wants to change the sinister atmosphere reigning everywhere, but the windows have wooden barriers, such as that the place looks like a concentration camp. A prison-like barred elevator leads him from the upper floors of some kind of high-brow society to a highly exploited and terrorized mass of undefined workers echoing Fritz Lang’s subterranean crowd in Metropolis (1927). The waiter is also confronted by a Dantesque, Orwellian universe where people are constantly filmed and spied upon by hidden camera and microphones, the recorded inquiry and torture scenes being embedded and shown again on a mini TV screen in the dictator’s hidden refuge. Th embedded fragments include scenes of non-dissimulate violance, but also quite a lot of prostitution, sex and nudity, taboo issues for more than forty years in Romanian film.
  • Luxury is built on human misery, such that masses from Casa Poporului, some of whom are handicapped, finally emerge from the infernal circles: rebellion against megalomaniac dictatorship is imminent, the victims becoming hangmen.
  • Pita used a large number of extras from the army, the Ministry of Interior and even a handicapped people’s association to increase the verisimilitude of scenes often difficult to watch.
  • However, the film aged quite badly, and the Romanian dialogue sounds highly artificial. The general feeling is that it describes a nightmare while mixing up different narrative codes (realistic, symbolic, absurd), without really making an assessment of it.
  • awarded the Silver Lion at 1992 Venice Film Festival
  • Pepe si Fifi – described by Alex Leo Serban as a ‘requiem for the dead innocence’; a Balkan La Dolce Vita, depicting the destiny of siblings in a tough world of prostitutes, beggars, and dealers of all kinds.
  • Eu sunt Adam (My Name Is Adam, 1996) – highly personal adaptation of several short stories by Mircea Eliade
  • Omul zilei (The Man of the Day, 1997) – slice of life from neo-capitalist Romania, a vicious politician in a totally perverted environment.
  • Second-hand (2003)
  • Femeia visurilor (The Dream Women, 2005)

Mircea Daneliuc

Romanian Cinema’s Rebel with a Cause

  • stands as the most important Romanian director of the 1980s, while also proving relatively prolific and thought-provoking during the immediate post-Communist period (five films from 1991 to 1995)
  • as was the case with other auteurs, his work has only been partially shown to non-domestic audiences and still needs to be reconsidered for a number of reasons: 1. despite enormous difficulties, Daneliuc’s films managed to escape Communist censorship, while bringing to the fore extremely authentic characters and situations, thus constituting an invaluable picture of Romanian society; 2. the director’s uncommon capacity to shift from highly realistic stories to parables and allegories, while enabling critics and audiences alike to decode them in inspiring ways; 3. Daneliuc is probably a case of consistent artistic rebellion, having used film as a weapon against a dysfunctional society, both during and after the end of Communism.
  • he also proved a gifted novelist, playwright, theatre director and actor, playing main or peripheral parts in his own films so as to feel closer to his own performers.
  •  Cursa (The Log Drive, 1975) – his film debut
  • Daneliuc achieved a high though problematic production rate in the early 1980s. Thus, 4 films were almost out almost at the same time, because their premiers were always delayed due to the director consistently refusing to cut scenes.
  • Editie speciala (Special Edition, 1977) – a thriller unfolding in the 1940s
  • Vanatoarea de vulpi (Fux Hunting, 1980), adapted from a novel by Dinu Sararu
  • the opening shot from The Long Drive herald what will be Danelic’s constant device: reflexivity. He is seen giving instructions inside what appears to be a factory while he is busy filming, a camera over his shoulders. The novelty resides in his urgency to report on reality and film it at the same time, this simultaneity helping abolish the frontier between fiction and reality: ‘Stop’, he tells the crew. ‘Start again so we can shoot the departure, too bad, we’ve missed it’. He is interviewing factory workers; then the image is reframed in black and white over a coloured background. His female star and real-life partner, Tora Vasilescu, is shouting at him in her first onscreen appearance at the factory, a love/hate relationship which will become the trademark of highly atypical couple in the context of Romanian film.
  • Proba de microfon (Microphone Test, 1980) – as in most films touching on contemporary topics, the train become a metaphor for human knowledge , and the station is an extremely complex environment. The reporters seem rather free to choose the interviews that will be actually shown, a quite unusual practice in a system where any information is closely wathced. They are also ready to use a hidden camera: the reflexive devices used by Daneliuc are as sophoisticated as the ones used by J-L Godard, Michel Deville. Daneliuc is one of the first directors to have used direct sound, recording entire scenes and then mixing them with post-synchronised ones. -> the film contains semi-documentary footage along with genuinely natural situations, accents from different parts of the country, rough everyday language, and physical as well as psychological forms of unrest. The image of different parts of Romania reveal a poor derelict country with unsolved economic problems, in terms of employment, housing and food supplies.
  • Ani is an anti-heroine par excellence, probably one of the most unusual female characters from the East European Communist context, where the lack of morality was highly unusual and strongly condemned.
  • self-portrait –  many events from Daneliuc’s life: his tempestuous, sexually charged relationship wit Vasilescu/Ani, his hair-cutting scene for military service during his university training and the medical check-up are all biographical.
  • Croaziera (The Cruise, 1982), written and directed by him – the film’s general tone is far darker than the preceding one’s in terms of colour, outdoor shooting, character behaviour and mode of address.
  • a highly cynical, sarcastic atmosphere pervades
  • the atmosphere on the ship is dominated by frequent quarrels: they reveal their obsession with food, health and material things in the restrictive Communist environment
  • it was a miracle that such a free film wnet out during bleak times: it was watched by a huge audience, until the Party officials realized that it was harmful and took it out of the distribution circuit. The sarcastic comic line lampooning a dysfunctional society is the same as the one set up by playwright Caragiale almost a century ago.
  • Glissando (1984), Daneliuc wrote the screenplay as early as 1980. – initial inspiration Omul din vis (The Man from a Dream), Cezar Petrescu
  • the title = french glisser = to slide -> applied to piano and harp, it refers to the effect obtained by sliding rapidly over keys or strings, so that every individual note is articulated, no matter how rapid the ‘slidings’. Daneliuc introduces narrative cells resembling vignettes, which slide back and forth in time and space.
  • in his extremely personal tortured diary, Pisica Rupta (The Torn Cat), Daneliuc mentions having been summoned innumerable times by Ceausescu’s Censors and ministers to cut most of the overtly apocalyptic part: he eventually agreed to make cuts to the copy sent to the Venice International Film Festival. Shown in a shorter version, in won no prize, but its critical acclaim was considerable. After almost 2 years of delay to the domestic issue of Glissando, Daneliuc made a costly gesture for dictatorship times: he officially handed back his party membership cars and became estranged from the filmmaking world, with painful economic consequences for his everyday life. He detailed these aspects in his book in a violent, aggressive, ironical tone, changing slightly the names of the real-life characters but also giving ludicrous nicknames to different Communist big shots.
  • Iacob (1988) – approved after a cinematic silence of 4 years, during which Daneliuc was forced to shoot industrial 16mm documentaries about factory life. Adapted from the short story The Death of Iacob Onisar by naturalist writer Geo Bogza.
  • Iacob’s mining environment echoes many controversial issues in the Romanian psyche.
  • One is hard-pressed to describe Visan’s superhuman performance, the outstanding camerawork by Florin Mihailescu, the complex editing by Maria Neagu. alternating vast ensemble compositions with close shots to create an unbereabletension, the hyper-real sound design by Horea Murgu foregrounding silence as the sole answer to fatality.
  • Iacob was nominated for Best Film and Best Actor at the Berlin European Film Academy Contest in 1988, but no public mention was made in Romania
  • Taking up Bogza’s own coinage, Eugenia Voda describes Daneliuc’s enterprise as an act of ‘creative exasperation’. The film may also be decoded as a variant on the constant Romanian myth, that of the prophetic little lamb Mioritza: the hero’s death is clearly inscribed in his suicidal enterprise and occurs in the midst of a wintry natural environment. Another interesting interpretation comes from Mircea Dumitrescu. He refers to the homonymous hero from the Old Testament, Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca: Jacob has a dream in which angels provide him with a ladder leading to Heaven and granting him protection from his ancestral God Abraham. In Dumitrescu’s opinion, Bogza’s hero attempts to climb a similar ladder, using the cable car as a sort og manger on Christmas Eve. However, his enterprise proves a complete failure and he is not blessed, but rather condemned to an inevitable, self-inflicted sacrifice. This metaphor of tragic self-confrontation might stand as a moral and political decoding of a dead end, an apocalyptic condition for the Romanian people in general.
  • A 11a porunca (The 11th Commandment, 1991) – first post-Communist film, based on a novel by the dissident author Paul Goma.
  • as was the case with the mysterious sanatorium in Gissando, there is a perfectly recognizable allusion to Communist dictatorship with its shamefully coercive and humiliating practices.
  • obeying an order of the Allied armies, a group of Germans having similar physical characteristics to Hitler, Eichman, Borman, Goebbels, Goring and Eva Braun are interned in a special prisoner camp somewhere in Europe, so as to be further identified and eventually punished.
  • A 11a porunca is a film which is hard to ignore when talking about the history of Romanian cinema. Eugenia Voda mentions the fact that this production pones up a new period of Romanian cinema, while departing from the old one, governed by Communist dictatorship. Daneliuc’s radical pessimism filters into every scene: there is no hope left either for individual men o for humanity in general.
  • Patul conjucal (The Conjugal Bed, 1993)
  • in tough post-Ceausescu Bucharest, everybody is struggling to make a living: poverty is more extreme than ever and market economy is a grotesque illusion.
  • Aceasta lehamite (Fed up, 1994) –  a film difficult to understand beyond Romanian frontiers.
  • Senatorul Melcilor (The Snail’s Senator, 1995)
  • Ambasadori cauta patrie (Ambassadors Seek Country, 20030
  • Sistemul nervos (The Nervous System, 2005)
  • Legiunea straina (The Foreign Legion, 2008)
  • his films from the 1980s and the trilogy about moral condition of post-Communist Romania constitute milestones in the evolution of Romanian film in the second half of the twentieth century.

The 1989 Moment

Film and History inb the Early 1990s

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