A History of Romanian Cinema

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Romania at the turn of the 20th century was perhaps unique in the world because literature and politics overlapped, with many writers engaged in politics and even becoming ministers. The cultural world and the political world were deeply intertwined. There were three main currents of thought: the conservative, the socialist and the symbolist. Cultural and political magazines multiplied.
The conservative side gathered around Junimea, a literary society founded in Iasi (the capital of old Moldavia and the first capital of Romania) by the philosopher and literary critic Titu Maiorescu in 1863 (four years after the unification of Moldavia and Wallachia into Romania). The philosopher and literary critic Mihail Dragomirescu was the main force behind its Convorbiri magazine, established in 1907. Another influential Junimist was the philosopher Constantin Radulescu, who in 1900 had founded Noua Revista Romana. Junimists were in favor of "art for art's sake". Their poets were traditionalist neoromantics like Panait Cerna. Another conservative circle centered around the Samanatorul literary and political magazine, founded in 1901 by poets Alexandru Vlahuta and George Cosbuc ("Balade si Idile", 1893). The border between poetry and politics was so blurred that the main traditionalist poet of the conservative magazine Luceafarul, founded in 1902, was Octavian Goga, later a fascist politician. It was an era of polymaths. Among Samanatorul's right-wing activists, Nicolae Iorga was a historian, politician, literary critic, poet and playwright who despised the French influence on Romania's literature to the point of organizing a nationalist protest in front of the National Theater of Bucharest (1906).
The giant of Romanian literature at the turn of the 20th century was Ion-Luca Caragiale, a prolific Junimea-bred writer who left behind novels such as "Kir Ianulea" (1909) and plays such as "O Noapte Furtunoasa/ A Stormy Night" (1878) and "O Scrisoare Pierduta/ A Lost Letter" (1884).
The Junimists were also proud of the Romanian Revival (or Neo-Brancovenesc) style in architecture, represented by Anghel Saligny, who in 1895 designed the Fetesti-Cernavoda railway bridge over the Danube (the longest bridge in Europe at that time) and Ion Mincu, who also in 1895 designed the Palace of Justice in Bucharest. The Junimists also liked the neo-Byzantine church icons and murals of Transylvanian painter Octavian Smigelschi.
The play "Manasse" (1900), by Ronetti Roman (born Aron Blumenfeld), caused scandal because it was written by a Jew (and even born in Austria) and dealt with Christian discrimination of Jews.

The Junimists were countered by both Marxist-leaning politicians and "modernist" writers. First and foremost, there were the socialists. In 1893 the Partidul Social-Democrat al Muncitorilor/ Social Democratic Workers' Party, a spin-off of Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea's Contemporanul magazine (founded in 1881), was established and joined the Second International. In 1893 Constantin Mille started editing the anti-monarchic Adevarul newspaper, advocating land reform and universal suffrage. Its literary critic Garabet Ibraileanu bridged Junimea and Marxism, notably in his influential essays of 1909-12 ("Literatura si Societatea/ Literature and Society"). In 1892 Constantin Stere, who had spent seven years in a Siberian prison camp for his revolutionary actions in Russian-controlled Ukraine, launched in Iasi a left-wing populist movement known as Poporanism ("popor" means "people") which advocated social mission for art. This movement came to be led by the Marxist philosopher Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, who in 1906 launched the literary magazine Viata Romaneasca. It was in this magazine that new literary currents from Western Europe were promoted. One of its literary critics, Izabela Sadoveanu-Evan, who published "Impresii Literare/ Literary Impressions" (1908), was the first major promoter of Symbolism in Romania. Dobrogeanu-Gherea and Mille were the first influential Marxist thinkers of Romania.

In another version of the merge of politics and art, the socialists were allied of the symbolists. The simbolist movement was particularly influential in Romania. The Casa Capsa coffee house, established in 1891 near the National Theatre of Bucharest, was an important gathering place for writers, artists and actors. The charismatic figure of the symbolist movement was poet and novelist Alexandru Macedonski, who in 1880 had founded the anti-Junimist magazine Literatorul. His literary circle included the literary critic, art critic, poet and philosopher Tudor Vianu (and later one of the first movie theorists of Romania) and the poet Traian "Tradem" Demetrescu, a pioneer of fusing Marxism and Symbolism ("Aquarele", 1896). For more than 20 years Macedonski was one of the most influential poets ("Excelsior", 1895; "Poema Rondelurilor", 1920). His best pupil was probably Stefan Petica (1877), both a poet ("Fecioara Ón Alb/ The Virgin in White", 1902) and a playwright ("Solii Pacii/ The Messengers of Peace", 1901). Viata Romaneasca hosted a different branch of the symbolist movement, notably Alexandru Toma, later a pioneer of socialist realism. Another branch of symbolists included the "balladesque" poets Stefan Octavian Iosif and Dimitrie Anghel ("In Gradina", 1903). A fourth branch of the symbolist movement originated from the magazine Vieata Noua, founded in 1905 by the poet Ovid Densusianu. The meeting of Symbolism and Marxism was also represented by the magazines launched by four Bucharest friends: the poets Vasile Demetrius and Tudor Arghezi (who published the magazine Linia Dreapta in 1904), the journalist, politician and libertine Cocea Nicolae Dumitru Cocea, and the theologian, novelist, journalist and politician Gala Galaction. In 1910 Cocea and Arghezi started a new magazine, Viata Sociala, and in 1913 Cocea started his own socialist magazine Facla, influenced by Dobrogeanu-Gherea.

At the same time the progressive magazines supported Art Nouveau. Both princess Marie of Edinburgh (the future queen-consort, the last queen of Romania as the wife of King Ferdinand I) and her daughter Ileana were collectors of Art Nouveau. The key person here was Macedonski's friend Alexandru Bogdan-Pitesti, another polymath (poet, politician and art collector) who in 1896 started the Salonul Independentilor in Bucharest together with the painters Nicolae Vermont and Stefan Luchian. In 1898 this salon evolved into the Societatea Ileana, an international art society, and in 1900 into the magazine Ileana, gathering both writers and artists. At the end of 1901 Vermont, Luchian, the painter Gheorghe Petrascu and the sculptor Frederic Storck founded the society Tinerimea Artistica. Princess Marie was also a patron of symbolist painter Kimon Loghi.

The Peasant Revolt of April 1907, initially a revolt against land administrators which were mostly Jews, a revolt crushed by Dimitrie Sturdza's government killing thousands of peasants, was a watershed moment not only for Romanian politics but also for Romanian art and literature.

Symbolism, Marxism and avantgarde art became more radical after 1907. The new leader of the symbolists was Ion Minulescu, who edited the magazine Revista Celor L'Alti (1908), published the artistic manifesto "Aprindeti Tortele! Light Up the Torches!" (1908), and the collection "Romante Pentru Mai Tarziu/ Songs for Later On" (1908). In 1912 the high-school student Ion Vinea (born Eugen Iovanaki) and his Jewish schoolmates Tristan Tzara (born Samuel Rosenstock) and Marcel Janco (born Iancu) (one a writer and the other one a graphic artist) started a literary and art magazine, Simbolul. The magazine also had a political and satirical section, which featured prose poems by Adrian Maniu and Emil Isac ("Protopopii Familiei Mele/ My Family's Protopopes", 1912). The journalist and politician Constantin Banu, together with poets Ion Pillat and Adrian Maniu, founded the symbolist magazine Flacara in 1911, headed from 1916 by Horia Furtuna. In 1912 Minulescu started a new magazine, Insula, that featured poets like Dumitru Iacobescu (born Armand Iacobsohn), who died in 1913 at the age of 19, and Mihail Saulescu, who also died young in 1916. Another symbolist magazine started in 1912 was Versuri si Proza, edited by Alfred Hefter-Hidalgo and Ion Rascu. During this time the fusion with Marxism led to a generation of "proletarian" symbolists a` la Demetrescu like the poet Mihail Cruceanu ("Spre Cetatea Zorilor", 1912), later one of the original members of the Romanian Communist Party founded in 1921, and George Bacovia ("Plumb/ Lead", 1916).

In 1910 a symbolist-themed art show titled Tinerimea Artistica show caused scandal. Among the exhibiting artists was Ion Theodorescu-Sion, a member of the "primitivist" faction with Cecilia Cutescu-Storck and Iosif Iser. But the greatest of the primitivists, Constantin Brancusi, was living in France since 1903.

Despite the fact that the king of Romania, Ferdinand I, was a member of the larger Hohenzollern family (the family of Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany), Romania fought World War I on the side of the winning powers (Britain and France) against the "central powers" (Austria and Germany), and gained Transylvania from Austria-Hungary and Bessarabia (Moldova) from the Soviet Union, thus doubling in size.

World War I split the literary and art world between those supporting the "central powers" (Germany and Austria) and those opposing them. Several symbolists (Arghezi, Bogdan-Pitesti, Gala Galaction, etc) were later arrested as "collaborationists" for supporting Germany. In 1915 Vinea and others founded the anti-war Chemarea, that published Tzara's early radical poems, and later became a vehicle for Cocea's Marxist ideas. A casualty of the war was the glorious journal Junimea, which was terminated in 1916. Tzara and Janco moved to Switzerland and launched the Dada movement at the Cabaret Voltaire.

In 1919 Bela Kun, the communist who was briefly ruler of Hungary, tried to regain the lost Transylvanian territories from Romania, but Romania defeated the Hungarian army and even deposed Kun himself.

After World War I, the Romanian art world quickly embraced more radical styles. Janco returned to Romania and became a painter, sculptor and architect. Vinea became one of Romania's most influential critics, also famous for his bohemian lifestyle, and drifted towards Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism when he founded the literary and art magazine Contimporanul (1922), which organized art shows and also hosted antifascist articles.

The roots of Dada were in Romania's symbolist-Marxist movement, and in fact Tzara was not the only case of absurbist conceptual art. Despite the fact that he killed himself in 1923, Dimitrie "Urmuz" Ionescu-Buzeu was another pseudo-Dada figure thanks to his demented parodies ("Ismail si Turnavitu/ Ismail and Turnavitu", 1922), often coupled with grotesque performances by actor George Ciprian.

Eugen Lovinescu mediated between Junimism and modernism, and proposed his own "synchronism" in his magazine Sburatorul, started in 1919. Several poets and critics gravitated between Sburatorul and Contimporanul, notably the poet Ilarie Voronca, already influenced by surrealism ("Colomba", 1927), and the critic Felix Aderca (born Froim-Zelig Aderca). The magazine Gandirea, founded by Cezar Petrescu in 1921, leaned towards Expressionism, although it also hosted neo-traditionalists like the poet and future fascist politician Nichifor Crainic (born Ion Dobre), whereas Dada and Surrealism were the specialty of the art and literary magazine Unu, founded in 1928 by Sasa Pana. This generation, presented by the "Antologia poetilor de azi/ The Anthology of Present-Day Poets" (1925) that was compiled by poet Ion Pillat and illustrated by Marcel Janco, was influenced by the literary critic Dumitru "Perpessicius" Panaitescu.

The symbolist sculptor Dimitrie Paciurea rose to prominence in the 1920s with the series of "Chimeras". In 1924 Victor Brauner, a painter influenced by Expressionism and Dada, founded the magazine 75HP with poet Ilarie Voronca, but in 1930 moved to France.

Ironically, one of the greatest poets of the period was not aligned with any of these movements, and was in fact mainly a philosopher, Lucian Blaga ("Poemele Luminii", 1919). The main expressionist poet was Ion Barbu ("Joc Secund/ Mirrored Play", 1930), who was a mathematician.

Ditto in theater, where major works were produced by the former mayor of Bucharest, Barbu-Stefanescu Delavrancea ("Apus de Soare/ Sunset", 1909), and by another philosopher, Camil Petrescu ("Jocul Ielelor/ The Dance of the Elves", 1918).

Many of the poets who participated in the heated intellectual and ideological debates of the beginning of the century published their best work later, for example Tudor Arghezi ("Cuvinte Potrivite", 1927) and Ion Pillat ("Poemele Intr-un Vers", 1935).

The novelists too were largely shielded by the ideological diatribes and managed to produce many important novels, such as Duiliu Zamfirescu's "Viata la Tara/ Country Life" (1894), Alexandru Bratescu-Voinesti's "In Lumea Dreptatii" (1905), Liviu Rebreanu's "Padurea Spnzuratilor/ The Forest of the Hanged" (1922), Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu's "Concert din Muzica de Bach" (1927), Mateiu Caragiale's "Craii de Curtea-Veche" (1929), and Camil Petrescu's "Ultima Noapte de Dragoste Intaia Noapte de Razboi/ The Last Night of Love the First Night of War" (1930).

The avantgarde yielded Felix Aderca's erotic novel "Femeia cu Carne Alba/ The White-fleshed Woman" (1927), Ion Vinea's experimental novel "Paradisul Suspinelor/ The Paradise of Sighs" (1930), and Cocea's erotic novel "Fecior de Sluga/ The Son of the Servant" (1933).

The main novelist between the two world wars was Mihail Sadoveanu, who wrote "Dumbrava Minunata" (1926), "Hanu Ancutei/ Ancuta's Inn" (1928), which is one of Romania's best novels, "Zodia Cancerului" (1929), "Baltagul/ The Hatchet/ La Scure" (1930).

Romania was far less gifted in classical music. Its main composer of the first half of the 20th century, George Enescu, lived in France.

The monarchy ruled Romania until World War II. Ion Bratianu was prime minister until 1927. After that year the monarchy had to deal with the fascist and Christian-fundamentalist movement Garda de Fier/ Iron Guard, founded in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church, a movement which assassinated two prime ministers (in 1933 and 1939).

The last major art society before the fascist takeover was Criterion, founded in Bucharest in 1932 by philosopher and critic Petru Comarnescu. Members included Mircea Eliade, Jewish playwright Mihail Sebastian, the young playwright Eugene Ionesco (who moved to France in 1942) and choreographer Floria Capsali. The polymath Mircea Eliades was another towering personality of Romania. Mainly a historian and philosopher, he also wrote the novels "Maitreyi/ Bengal Nights" (1933) and "Noaptea de Sanziene/ The Forbidden Forest" (1954).

Significant poets that emerged just before World War II and the transition to communism include: Nicolae Davidescu ("Cantecul Omului/ The Song of Man", 1937), Vasile Voiculescu ("Intrezariri", 1940; "Ultimele Sonete Inchipuite ale lui Shakespeare/ Shakespeare's Last Fancied Sonnets", 1958), and Ion Caraion ("Cintege Negre/ Black Songs", 1946).

In 1940 the Iron Guard allied with the military to depose the king and to enter World War II on the side of Hitler's Germany against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union invaded (a bloodless invasion) and annexed Romania's Bessarabia, merging it with a piece of Ukraine (later known as Transnistria) to become the Moldova republic within the Soviet Union. In 1944 a coup (led by the army and the opposition) overthrew Romania's fascist government and Romania switched sides and joined Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union against Hitler's Germany (Italy had already executed Mussolini and switched sides). In 1945 the Soviet Union occupied Romania and imposed a communist regime, which from 1947 was led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej.

Cinema never had a chance. First the fascists, then the communists clipped its wings. Somehow Romania offered the worst environment for filmmakers, and so Romania had none of the vibrant Polish, Czech and Hungarian scenes.

Transylvania, at the time still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, already had a movie theater in Brasov since 1901, but the first movie theater in Bucharest was opened only in 1909. Bucharest theater owner Leon Popescu became the main film producer of Romania in 1912. His films were often directed by theater director Grigore Brezeanu (the son of actor Iancu Brezeanu, one of Caragiale's favorite actors), who already written and directed for Pathe Amor Fatal/ Fatal Love (1911), and mostly employed actors from Bucharest's National Theater, notably the theatrical diva Lucia Sturdza-Bulandra. The most famous was the historical epic Independenta Romaniei/ Independence of Romania (1912), about the Romanian War of Independence (1877-1878), mostly scripted by actor Petre Liciu before his death and directed by actor Aristide Demetriade. The actress Marioara Voiculescu became Romania's first female director when in 1913 she directed some of Popescu's movies, like Razbunarea (1913), was an adaptation of Caragiale's last play "Napasta/ The Blight" (also his first drama, and so controversial that it wasn't being performed in the theaters anymore after the premiere of 1890), and Amorurile unei Printese (1913), an adaptation of Victorien Sardou's drama "Fedora" made famous by theater diva Sarah Bernhardt. But Popescu died in 1918 and Brezeanu in 1919, and their experience ended prematurely.

Not much came out of Romania's cinema in the 1920s, mainly because the equipment was too expensive for the relatively poor country. Aurel Petrescu pioneered Romanian animation with cartoons like Pacala pe Luna/ Pacala on the Moon (1920). Alfred Halm's Fata Tigani in Dormitor/ The Gypsy Girl in the Bedroom (1923), about gypsy slavery in Wallachia, was adapted from a novel by Radu Rosseti. Jean Mihail (born Jean Mihailovici) adapted a Caragiale play for Pacat/ Sin (1924) and made the social-realist Manasse (1925). The theatrical actor Jean Georgescu (born Ion Georgescu) wrote, directed and starred in Milionar Pentru o Zi/ Millionaire for a Day (1924). Eftimie Vasilescu directed the farce Peripitiile Calatoriei lui Rigadin de la Paris la Bucuresti/ The Adventures of Rigadin During His Travel from Paris to Bucharest (1924), featuring both Constantin Tanase (a famous actor of the Romanian cabaret) and French comedian Prince Rigadin (born Charles Seigneur, known as "Moritz" in Germany, "Whiffles" in England and "Tartufini" in Italy), a movie used at the Carabus theater as a preamble to their joint sketch. Theatrical director Ion Sahighian entered cinema with Simfonia Dragostei/ The Symphony of Love (1928).

Romanian intellectuals still considered cinema an inferior sideshow to theater, and these half-baked movies justified that low reputation. Their opinion started to change with the advent of sound, although this technology made it even more expensive for Romanian filmmakers to operate. The first Romanian "talkie" was made by a German director, Martin Berger, employing German actors (speaking in Romanian): Ciuleandra (1930), an adaptation of Liviu Rebreanu's novel. Constantin Tanase went to Berlin to make Visul lui Tanase/ Tanase's Dream (1931), a movie that he produced, wrote, directed and in which he played the protagonist. Stroe si Vasilache was a popular comedian duo formed by Nicolae Stroe and Vasile Vasilache who had radio shows since 1929: they wrote, directed and even composed the score of Bing-Bang (1935).

To help the struggling domestic filmmakers, the government in 1934 set up a national fund. Nonetheless, it wasn't until the end of the decade that its impact became visible. Sahighian then made Se Aprind Facliile (1939), which starred both poet Emil Botta and singer Maria Tanase (one of Romania's most popular singers), and O Noapte de Pomina/ An Unforgettable Night (1939). Georgescu adapted a Caragiale comedy for O Noapte Furtunoasa/ A Stormy Night (1943), starring legendary theatrical actor Radu Beligan. Cornel Dumitrescu's fairy tale Padurea Indragostitilor/ The Lovers' Forest (1946) closed the era of early, rudimentary Romanian cinema.

From the beginning of Gheorghiu-Dej's dictatorship, politicians and bureaucrats were "purged" from positions of power unless they conformed beyond any doubt to the communist doctrine. Writers and artists were limited to "social-realistic" celebrations of communist values and of the achievements of the communist state; basically reduced to vehicles for propaganda. Dissidents were purged and persecuted. In 1955 Romania joined the Warsaw Pact, de facto becoming a vassal of the Soviet Union.

Romanian literature remained occasionally vibrant even under communism, with novels like Zaharia Stancu's "Descult/ Barefoot" (1948), Marin Preda's "Morometii/ The Moromete Family" (1955) and Petru Dumitriu's "Cronica de Famili/ Family Chronicle" (1957). Poetry, however, was all but annihilated. The notable poet of the era was Nicolae Labis ("Moartea Caprioarei/ The Death of the Doe", 1956), who at Casa Capsa in November 1956, mourning the failed anti-communist uprising in Hungary, loudly recited Eminescu's banned patriotic poem "Doina".

In November 1948 the film industry was nationalized. On the other hand, the Institutul de Arta Cinematografica (Institute of Cinematographic Art) was created to train directors, cinematographers and actors. In 1959 the Buftea Studio started producing movies.

The animator Ion Popescu-Gopo was the first prominent Romanian filmmaker, thanks to shorts like Scurta Istoria/ A Brief History (1956), Sapte Arte/ Seven Arts (1958) and Homo Sapiens (1960) that revisited the human adventure through the comic vicissitudes of his "little man", a timid but ingenious Adam.

The documentarian Haralambie Boros made the comedy Afacerea Protar/ The Protar Affair (1955), set in pre-war Bucharest, which revealed set designer Constantin Simionescu.

In 1965 Gheorghiu-Dej died and was succeeded by Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1968 Ceausescu refused to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia and moved away from the Soviet orbit. The following year Richard Nixon visited Romania, the first visit by a US president to a communist country. For a brief period Romania seemed to open to the West. The regime had begun to relax restrictions on culture in 1961, when the the Ministry of Culture had launched the magazine Secolul 20, especially after (1963) Dan Haulica was appointed chief editor. He promoted artists like Geta Bratescu and poets like Stefan-Augustin Doinas ("Omul cu Compasul/ The Man with the Compass", 1966). Until 1971 Romania witnessed the first wave of artistic experimentation since the 1920s. Romanian intellectuals were free to travel abroad and several emigrated to the West, like Paul Neagu. There were new art societies: Stefan Bertalan founded 111 (1963) and Sigma (1970). One of the most original artists of the Gheorghiu-Dej era, Ion Tuculescu, worked as a doctor and never exhibited his paintings. In 1965, after the death of dictator Gheorghiu-Dej, Romania finally got to see his paintings but the painter was already dead.

During the "opening" of the late 1960s Romanian poetry finally recovered with poets such as Adrian Paunescu ("Ultrasentimente", 1965), Eugen Jebeleanu ("Elegie Pentru Floarea Secerata/ Elegies for the Cut Flower", 1966), Stefan-Augustin Doinas ("Omul cu Compasul/ The Man with the Compass", 1966), Nichita Stanescu ("11 Elegii", 1966; "Epica Magna", 1978), Gellu Naum ("Athanor", 1968), Otilia-Valeria Coman "Ana Blandiana" ("A Treia Taina/ The Third Sacrament", 1969), Maria Banus ("Portretul din Fayum/ Portrait of Fauym", 1970), and especially Marin Sorescu ("Mortea Ceasului/ The Death of the Clock", 1966; "Tineretea lui Don Quijote/ Don Quijote's Tender Years", 1968; "La Lilieci/ To The Lilac Bush", 1973) who later was also wrote plays such as "Matca/ The Matrix" (1973) and "Raceala/ Cold" (1977).

Two theatrical directors were at the vanguard of Romanian cinema during the 1960s: Livio Ciulei, who directed the war movie Padurea Spanzuratilor/ Forest of the Hanged (1965), adapted from Liviu Rebreanu's novel, and Lucian Pintilie, who made Reconstituirea/ The Reenactment (1968), adapted from Horia Patrascu's novel, the tragic reconstruction of a hooligan incident that results in the repetition of the incident itself.

The filmmaker Mircea Muresan rose to prominence with the historical reconstruction of Rascoala/ The Uprising (1965), based on a novel by Liviu Rebreanu about the Peasant Revolt of 1907.

Radu Gabrea directed Prea Mic Pentru un Razboi Atit de Mare/ Too Small for such a Big War (1969) and Dincolo de Nisipuri/ Beyond the Sands (1973), before going into exile.

The "Opening" lasted less than a decade. In 1971, shortly after visiting China and North Korea, Ceausescu delivered a harsh speech (the "July Theses") in which he denounced Western culture and reaffirmed the importance of Soviet-style socialist realism. Artists and writers were again muzzled. The photographer and video artist Ion Grigorescu couldn't exhibit his works until 1989. It was cultural revolution similar to Mao's. The economic result was the same: Romania became known for extreme poverty. Ceausescu launched a Maoist-style cult of personality (of himself). In the 1980s his dictatorship seemed surreal, almost as if the Marx Brothers had invented it. He and his wife were almost deified while the population was enduring one of the worst economic crises in the history of the region. Ceausescu's birthday was celebrated with grotesquely pompous national ceremonies, greatly surpassing Christmas celebrations.

Just like before, Romanian writers kept producing great novels, even when the country experienced starvation. Important novels published during the Ceausescu era include: Mircea Simionescu's "Ingeniosul Bine Temperat/ The Well-Tempered Innovator" (1969), Augustin Buzura's "Absentii/ The Absent" (1970) and "Refugii/ Refuges" (1984), Alexandru Ivasiuc's "Iluminari/ Illuminations" (1975), Stefan Agopian's "Ziua Maniei/ Day of Anger" (1978), Norman Manea's "Anii de Ucenicie ai lui August Prostul/ The Years of Apprenticeship of Augustus the Fool" (1979), Norman Manea's "Plicul Negru/ The Black Envelope" (1986), Mircea Simionescu's "Nesfarsitele Primejdii/ The Endless Dangers" (1978) and "Toxicologia/ Toxicology" (1983), Marin Preda's "Cel Mai Iubit Dintre Pamanteni/ The Most Beloved of Earthmen" (1980), and Bujor Nedelcovici's "Al Doilea Mesager/ The Second Messenger" (1985). Even during Ceausescu's worst excesses, a new generation of poets emerged, impressive both in quantity and quality: Anghel Dumbraveanu ("Singuratatea Amiezii/ The Solitude of Noon", 1973), Ioan Flora ("Fise Poetice/ Poetry Cards", 1977; "O Bufnita Tanara pe Patul Mortii/ A Young Owl in Its Death Bed", 1988), Traian Cosovei ("Ninsoarea Electrica/ Electric Snowfall", 1978), Daniela Crasnaru ("Cringul hipnotic/ Hypnotic Grove", 1979), Mircea Dinescu ("Moartea Citeste Ziarul/ Death is Reading the Newspaper", 1989), etc.

A great composer finally emerged in the 1960s: Octavian Nemescu, who dominated Romanian classical music until his death in 2020 and composed his most original works in the 1990s and 2000s. Another significant composer of that generation, Horatiu Radulescu, lived in France, so did Costin Miereanu a generation later. Roman Vlad lived in Italy. Aurel Stroe left Romania in 1985. Stefan Niculescu and Tiberiu Olah were influential because they remained in Romania and raised a new generation of Romanian composers, like Doina Rotaru.

Cinema, which had never truly taken off, suffered greatly under Ceausescu. No major film came out of Romania. Popular movies included: Mircea Dragan's detective movie Brigada Diverse Intr„ Ón Actiune/ The Miscellaneous Brigade Goes into Action (1970), which had several sequels; Gheorghe Vitanidis's Ciprian Porumbescu (1973), a biopic of the 19th century composer and patriot, a founding member of Junimea who died at the age of 29; Manole Marcus's comedy Operatiunea 'Monstrul'/ Operation 'The Monster' (1976); the farce Nea Marin Miliardar/ Uncle Marin the Billionaire (1979), which adapted to cinema a popular television character; and Stere Gulea's Morometii/ The Moromete Family (1987), an adaptation of Marin Preda's novel. The main director of those two decades was perhaps Sergiu Nicolaescu, who made historical epics like Mihai Viteazul/ Michael the Brave (1970), starring Amza Pellea, Nemuritorii/ The Immortals (1974) and and Mircea/ Proud Heritage (1989).

In 1987 protests against the government erupted in Brasov and at the end of 1989, when all communist regimes were falling, Ceausescu was deposed and executed. The "westernization" of the country was rapid: in 1990 Romania held its first free elections, in 2004 it joined NATO and in 2007 it joined the European Union.

After the fall of Ceausescu, notable novels include George Cusnarencu's "Dodecaedru" (1991), Mircea Nedelciu's "Tratament Fabulatoriu/ "Confambulatory Treatment" (1996), and Leonard Oprea's "Cele Noua Invataturi ale lui Theophil Magus despre Magia Transilvana/ The Nine Teachings Of Theophil Magus On Transylvanian Magic" (2000), and the most notable talent was Mircea Cartarescu, with novels such as "Visul/ The Dream" (1989), "Orbitor/ Blinding" (2007) and "Solenoid" (2015), who was also an important poet ("Levantul/ The Levantine", 1990). Akos Nemeth ("Muller Tancosai/ Muller's Dancers", 1988) stood out in theater and Simona Popescu ("Noapte sau Zi/ Night or Day", 1998) in poetry.

Romania finally produced a director of international repute, Lucian Pintilie, who made the political farce Balanta/ The Oak (1992), starring Maia Morgenstern, perhaps the first truly notable Romanian film, and Terminus Paradis/ Next Stop Paradise (1998).

Serban Marinescu adapted Marin Preda's last novel for Cel Mai Iubit Dintre Pamanteni/ The Earth's Most Beloved Son (1993) and Mircea Muresan struck gold with the stale comedy A Doua Cadere a Constantinopolului/ The Second Fall of Constantinople (1994), written by radio veteran Octavian Sava (born Octavian Segall).

No films were made in Romania at all in 2000. And then suddenly the new millennium saw a boom of creativity in Romanian cinema. Cristi Puiu's Marfa si Banii/ Stuff and Dough (2001) was the first Romanian film to make waves abroad, followed by Cristian Mungiu's Occident/ West (2002), a witty narrative puzzle that toys with the viewer's expectations, and Nae Caranfil: Filantropica/ Philanthropy (2002).

Puiu continued to create important films like Un Cartu de Kent i un Pachet de Cafea/ Cigarettes and Coffee (2004), Moartea Domnului Lazarescu/ The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005), possibly the best Romanian film yet, an austere poem of the ordinary, filmed in a documentary style, the psychological Aurora (2010) and the even more complex Sieranevada (2016). Caranfil made Restul e Tacere/ The Rest is Silence (2007), about the making of Romania's first screenplay in 1911, and Mungiu crafted 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) and especially Beyond the Hills (2012).

Corneliu Porumboiu directed another classic, A Fost Sau N-a Fost?/ Was There or Wasn't There?/ 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), topped by an even better one, the black comedy Police Adjective (2009), set in a desolate urban landscape, at the time another contender for best Romanian film of all-time, both absurdist farces with Kafka-esque overtones.

Romanian auteurs multiplied rapidly: Cristian Nemescu made Marilena de la P7/ Marilena from P7 (2006) and especially California Dreamin' (2007); Radu Muntean made Hartia va fi Albastra/ The Paper Will Be Blue (2006), set on the night when Ceausescu regime collapsed, Boogie (2008) and Marti dupa Cracium/ Tuesday after Christmas (2010); Catalin Mitulescu made The Way I Spent the End of the World (2006); Horatiu Malaele made Nunta Muta (2008); Adrian Sitaru made Pescuit Sportiv/ Adrian Sitaru's Hooked (2009); Radu Jude made The Happiest Girl in the World (2009) and Toata Lumea din Familia Noastra/ Everybody In Our Family (2012); Florin Serban made If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010); Alexandru Maftei Hello! How Are You? (2010); Calin Peter Netzer Pozitia Copilului/ Child's Pose (2013); etc. Mostly, this generation offered portraits of Romanian society both during and after communism in a quasi-documentary manner but with satirical and parodistic overtones, perhaps unknowingly reconnecting with the intellectual avantgarde of a century earlier. The satire, however, was balanced by allegorical takes on universal values that made these films resonate with audiences in faraway countries, especially with the intellectuals of Western Europe.

Romania's economy improved but by 2017 people were fed up with corruption. Mass anti-government protests took place in 2017 and 2018. Since 2014 Romania was led by president Klaus Iohannis, hailing from an ethnic German enclave of Transylvania. Following his neighbor Viktor Orban in Hungary, Iohannis too adopted an illiberal stance and became wildly unpopular. Romania was the onky Balkan country directly affected by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, both because of its 600 km border with Ukraine and because Russia tried to destabilize Moldova (while technically independent, Moldova was split in two halves, one controlled by Russia, called Transnistria, and one leaning towards Romania and the European Union, i.e. the old Bessarabia).

Romanian cinema during the Johannis era was one of the most creative in the world. International recognition of Romanian cinema kept growing, although, ironically, new Romanian cinema was being more appreciated by foreign audiences than by the domestic audience, which was instead more fascinated by Hollywood blockbusters. Corneliu Porumboiu returned with the bleak surrealistic farce Comoara/ The Treasure (2015) and the fast-paced and noir-tinged action movie La Gomera/ Whistlers (2019).

Radu Jude returned with the Aferim (2015), perhaps the best of the era, a black-and-white costume drama reminiscent of Emir Kusturica's visceral black humor, Inimi Cicatrizate/ Scarred Hearts (2016), an adaptation of Max Blecher's novel, the Brechtian black comedy Imi Este Indiferent Daca in Istorie vom Intra ca Barbari/ I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018), Uppercase Print (2020), an adaptation of Gianina Carbunariu's stage play, and the viciously comic Nu Astepta prea Mult de la Sfarsitul Lumii/ Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World (2023).

And Cristian Mungiu returned with the family drama Bacalaureat/ Graduation (2016), Cristi Puiu with the three-hour Malmkrog (2020), and Radu Muntean with Intregalde (2021).

New auteurs keep appearing, such as: Ana Lungu, with Autoportretul unei Fete Cuminti/ Self-Portrait of a Dutiful Daughter (2015); Serbia-born director Ivana Mladenovic, with Soldatii - Poveste din Ferentari/ Soldiers - A Story from Ferentari (2017), an adaptation of Adrian Schiop's novel about the love between a female anthropologist and a gypsy criminal; Bogdan-Theodor Olteanu, with Cateva Conversatii Despre o Fata Foarte Inalta/ Several Conversations about a Very Tall Girl (2018); Adina Pintilie, with Nu ma Atinge/ Touch Me Not (2018); Eugen Jebeleanuís Camp de Maci/ Poppy Field (2020), mostly set inside a movie theater; Alina Grigore, with Crai Nou/ Blue Moon (2021); and Teodora Ana Mihai, with La Civil (2021). At the same time the Romanian public embraced comedies like Jesus del Cerro's Miami Bici (2020), Alex Cotet's Team Building (2022) and Cristian Ilisuan's Mirciulica (2022).


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