Country Focus: Romania
Romania - International Film Guide Survey
by Cristina Corciovescu
21/04/2009 - For Romanian cinema, 2008 was not a year of the big surprises it has grown accustomed to. Let’s consider it simply as a brief hiatus from the highs of Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or win for 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. On the other hand, we should bear in mind what the Romanian Culture Minister said in a press conference: that the Romanian film industry is significantly healthier, with 13 – 15 new features produced every year.
The biannual contest the Cinematography National Centre organizes each spring and autumn is the main source of financing for this industry and the loans it offers make it possible for all types of film (long and short feature films, long and short documentaries, animated features) to reach the production stage. Consequently, at the 2008 spring session there were 72 winning projects, which were awarded a total of €7,895,000.
The best feature of 2008 was an independent production. Elevator, directed by George Dorobantu, an ex-Navy officer, is the tragic story of two teenagers – a girl who wishes to lose her virginity and a boy who is no expert on sex – caught in the elevator of an old, deserted factory and whose desperate cries for help remain unheard. The drama of their situation, the tenderness of their feelings and Dorobantu’s confident handling of the narrative all make for an outstanding debut film.
The other two debuts build on long-established careers. Horatiu Malaele is a well-known theatre and film actor who ventured into directing with Silent Wedding (Nunta muta). In March 1953, the death of Stalin forced Romania to go into mourning. In a village where a wedding is about to take place, the guests decide that everything must go ahead as planned, but without the utterance of a single word or vow. Even though Malaele has some interesting solutions for the enactment of the ceremony, the film is too theatrical and suffers from the appearance of too many stars from Romanian theatre (many of them used merely as extras). Anca Damian, a director of photography and, more recently, a documentary filmmaker, directed Crossing Dates (Intalniri incrucisate), featuring three separate narratives told in succession. It is a solidly directed but little more than average film.
The return of Nae Caranfil was highly anticipated. However, The Rest is Silence (Restul e tacere) was not a success. In his familiar, highly ironic style, the writer/director turns the making of the first Romanian feature film, Romania’s Independence (1912), into some kind of Grand Guignol event, rather than present an account of a long-gone era. The outcome was a tedious epic.
The busiest member of the new wave, Radu Muntean, directed his third film, Boogie, which plays out like I Vitelloni, Romania style. Three former high school friends meet by chance and wish, if only for one night, they could re-live their youth. Drinking, womanizing, and bad jokes – nothing is as good as it used to be.
Among the films made by the veteran directors, Radu Gabrea’s Gruber’s Journey (Calatoria lui Gruber), a drama based on a real event, with a script by Alexandru Baciu and Razvan Radulescu was particularly impressive. Curzio Malaparte visits Moldavia as a war correspondent, but arrives during the anti-Jewish pogrom of June 1941. Suffering from a severe case of allergy, he is placed under the supervision of a Jewish doctor, whom he eventually searches for on the death trains. The merits of this fine film should be shared equally between the young writer s and veteran director. Exchange (Schimb valutar)was directed by Nicolae Margineanu. Sadly, Margineanu’s directional skills were unequal to Tudor Voican’s promising script, in which a gullible man, tricked by a swindler, has no choice but to become a criminal himself in order to survive.
The most important award won by a Romanian film this year was the Palme d’Or won by Marian Crisan at Cannes for her short film, Megatron. The award for best Romanian film at the Transylvania International Film Festival was given to Thomas Ciulei for The Flower Bridge (Podul de flori). A beautiful feature documentary, it focuses on a father who cares for his children in a small village in the Republic of Moldova.