The Borscht Bowl and Balzac’s “Le chef d’oeuvre inconnu”

We’ve already talked with high schoolers and students and we’ve made an idea on what interests them when it comes to Romanian film, but as the website is getting “older” now (its one month anniversary approaches), we continued our series of dialogues with members of the public who have a wider life experience… but film experience?… we shall find out.

Yes, I watch Romanian films whenever I have the chance. Time and daily stress don’t allow me to have the relationship I would wish with the seventh art, but I watch films if I find them on a TV channel. I even “led” my 11 years old son towards Romanian films, I showed him film websites with and about Romanian film. (hopefully, detur la Preciziei will become one of them) (S.T., 41, teacher)

Yes, as much as time allows me to. I watch Romanian films gladly. (N.P., 61, retired)

Yes, I like films. Romanian films are closer to my soul when they feed on psychological, historical or social realities which are familiar to me. The only reticence that I have when it comes to Romanian films before 1989 is their poor technical quality; and about the more recent ones, some give the impression that are made for a foreign public, more than for the autochthonous one. (A.S., 38, engineer)

I have neither an aversion nor a particular passion for Romanian film. There are Romanian films that I enjoyed watching and that I sometimes re-watch, and there are others that I don’t even think to watch again. At the same time, the fact that a film is in Romanian and its action is set in a familiar surrounding has a greater impact and determines me to have a more vehement attitude towards the film, be it positive or negative, than in the case o foreign films. (C.S., 35, economist)

Yes, I like “true” films. With Romanian films, I have a special relationship, especially with the ones produced before 1989. (M.A., 46, teacher)

Yes, I like watching films, and I have a good relationship with Romanian films. (S.C., 61, librarian)

A 50 years (relationship), with a pause, which began just after 1990, and came to an end around the start of the millennia. If when living under a totalitarian regime films were a second way of escaping reality – the first one was, o course, books – now, I see films with different eyes, when I have a basis of comparison. At least in the last few years, I noticed a remarkable progress. I first wait for a decent review of the film, and when the film premiers, I discover that it’s really good! (O.F., 53, IT)

Yes, I like watching films. With Romanian films, I have no other relationship than the one I have with films in general. I like watching films, Romanian films included. I have no specific expectations from Romanian films. (D.C., 53, artist, university lecturer)

Unfortunately, my relationship with films is lost now, but I impatiently await the day to restore it. (D.G., 54, librarian)

Films are an important part when it comes to how I spend my free time. I don’t know if I can call myself a cinephile (I believe that to wear that “tag”, one needs to have a vast knowledge on more than one level, from watching a film to the script, actors, directors, awards etc.), but I am not too far from that. I am a fan of European film, which I mandatory need to watch alone, just like I need to read alone because I’m always accused of watching boring films. Ha! Although I am totally involved in the film, I risk missing the best in a film when I have grumblers beside me. I do watch films with friends, with my housemate, in cinemas, but only Hollywood films and TV series. And I like those too… not all of them, of course. Furthermore, I even feel like I’m cheating on European films with lighter, depthless films, but at the end, if the final purpose is entertainment and a nice time together, why not?

Of course, I watch Romanian films as well. I try to watch every new Romanian film and to support its production by going to the cinema. I’m trying not to watch films online and to avoid invitations… it makes me feel contempt when I pay the ticket, which is usually cheap. But my effort is ruined by the old cinema’s stereo, I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD. And I know for a fact that it’s not the actors’ diction at fault. I work in the theatre world and I personally know a few film actors, and even they wait for the film to be screened on HBO or for the DVD to get out, to understand something from their own film. Haha! What a paradox right? And so it is, that I either miss a film, or watch it online and feel guilty, but not for long because I have already paid a ticket. I don’t like all Romanian films, it would be impossible, but without checking ratings or awards, I watch all that is to be watched. I feel like I’m missing something when I don’t see the newest film… And now, let’s be honest, it isn’t even that hard to see all of them, there are only a few films a year. (C.H.N., 29, actor)

I don’t watch new films anymore. (M.R., 50, economist)

We didn’t catch the 15-28 years old interviewees off guard and they came with contemporary film names (at least most of them), so we wanted to know which titles are still fresh in the memory of the older public (over 30). They lived at least a few years, if not more, in a communist Romania, so they have experienced directly the films before 1989, but did those films remained in their memory? We started by asking which was the last film they have seen.

I’ve seen again, this summer, Uncle Marin, the Billionaire (Nea Marin Miliardar, 1979) and I was excited to show my son, who I watched the film with, how Romanians were living in those times. (S.T., 41, teacher)

I have re-watched The Moromete Family (Morometii, 1987) on my personal computer. (N.P., 61, retired)

I re-watched The Death of Mister Lazarescu (Moartea Domnulu Lazarescu, 2005), last year. (A.S., 38, engineer)

The Death of Mister Lazarescu, a year ago. (C.S., 35, economist)

I re-watched the comedy, Uncle Marin, the Billionaire. (M.A., 46, teacher)

Snails’ Senator (Senatorul melcilor, 1995) by Mircea Daneliuc. (S.C., 61, librarian)

The Silent Valley (Valea Muta, TV mini-series, 2016). (O.F., 57, IT)

 Dogs (Caini, 2016), Bogdan Mirica’s debut in feature film. Very good visuals, predictable action, good acting performances (Gheorghe Visu and Vlad Ivanos. Dragos Bucur did not convince me). (D.C., 53, artist, university lecturer)

The Silent Valley. (D.G., 54, librarian)

Ana, mon amour (2017). (C.H.M., 29, actor)

The Death of Mister Lazarescu. (M.R., 50, economist)

…and which are the films that linger in their memory, followed by the haunting question “Why”?

 Being a history teacher I appreciate and I enjoy watching and re-watching the historical Romanian films, I’m referring to those before 1989, even if it is said that the reality was a bit distorted by some of the directors. (S.T., 41, teacher)

4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, 2007) . It came as a shock to me, a cold shower. To encounter a reality of my youth being so openly told, the real life was showed with no censor, no makeup… it was painfully real. (N.P., 61, retired)

Niki and Flo (Niki ardelean, colonel in rezerva, 2003), because it’s a powerful film, made out of the most trivial elements; for the perfectly balanced suspense, and for the multitude of details that each tells a whole story. (A.S., 38, engineer)

The Moromete Family is my favourite and is also considered one of the best Romanian films. It masterfully brings to the screen the rural atmosphere, it depicts with veracity the attitudes, conversations, and behaviours of the main characters, through an exceptional acting performance. My maternal grandparents being from a village in Teleorman, close to the place where the action is set, The Moromete Family gives a powerful feeling of familiarity, bitterness, through what I identify as being true and credible in the film, and nostalgia. I resonate with this film at a deeply personal level and I believe that many of the character features of the characters can be easily found in the Romanians’ psychology. (C.S., 35, economist)

Sergiu Nicolaescu’s historical films, Pistruiatul (TV series, 1973) (my childhood film), Ciuleandra (1985) (a profound film, with characters that leave their feelings at their fullest). (M.A., 46, teacher)

All the historical films (e.g. Mihai the Brave – Mihai Viteazul, 1970) from before 1989 stirred my curiosity because history was a passion of mine. I avoided (before 1989) political films. (S.C., 61, librarian)

Child’s Pose (Pozitia copilului, 2013), realism. (O.F., 57, IT-ist)

An Unforgettable Summer (O vara de neuitat,1994) by Lucian Pintilie, cinematography by Calin Ghibu. Firstly, due to the visuals, secondly for the way the narrative is conducted. (Why?) From the first moment, this is the film that came to my mind when I read the questions. (D.C., 53, artist, university lecturer)

Unfortunately none, but I can’t say I watched many Romanian films made after 1989. (D.G., 54, librarian)

12:08 East of Bucharest (A fost sau n-a fost?, 2006), Corneliu Porumboiu. I think of it fondly, probably because it’s the film that my friends also liked. And can be labelled as “safe” to recommend to others, it is a certain choice. I laughed with all my heart, even though it is a simple film, that proves how important is a good script. It seems that even the actors are enjoying their work more. Plus, for the generations born after the Revolution, such a films makes one wish to become more informed, makes one want to understand better what happened then and before that. A film that, though funny, challenges its viewers to investigate. It does not end at The End. (C.H.M., 29, actor)

The Death of Mister Lazarescu, the story got to me at a personal level. (M.R., 50, economist)

Where? We can see that there is a certain interest in films, but where does the public prefer to watch films now, but before 1989?

Before 1989 I was going to the cinema weekly, I watched anything, it was one of the few “access gates” to culture. Now I watch films on TV, mostly, and online. (S.T., 41, teacher)

Until 1989 I had a schedule. On Thursday always started a new film in cinemas, we went to see it. On Sunday, used to start another one, we went to see that one too. The access to culture was limited; we had two films a week, a concert at the Philharmonic on Fridays and books. After January 1990, there was a huge increase in the number of films on TV, but we didn’t have as much time to watch them because we started working more hours a day. Now I rarely go to the cinema, I watch films mostly on TV or on my personal computer (I don’t have a laptop), but the painful conclusion is that I used to see more films before 1989. (N.P., 61, retired)

Before at the cinema, now, the same (meaning the cinema’s in malls). (A.S., 23, engineer)

Where we could find them. We watched films at home when they were on TV, and we watched films at the cinema when we could still “catch” a ticket. I think I liked the cinema more; it was a sort of a special event feeling, just like going to the theatre. Even now, I prefer going to the cinema, but at home, I can watch more films, which aren’t available in cinemas. (C.S., 35, economist)

At the cinema. (M.A., 46, teacher)

Before 1989 Romanian films were watched only in cinemas, the foreign ones (which were forbidden) could also be watched on tapes, brought by the sailors. Now, I don’t really have the time to watch films anymore, but when I do, I watch them on TV because it’s easier, more comfortable after a certain… age. (S.C., 61, librarian)

At the cinema, now at home. (O.F., 57, IT)

Always in the cinema, NEVER on my phone! (D.C., 53, artist, university lecturer)

At the cinema, now at home on my laptop. (D.G., 54, librarian)

 Surely at the cinema, to feel the energies of those generations, when entertainment means were limited and cinema halls were full to the limit. I think it was a certain good feeling, which was really relaxing.

Now, still in the cinema, in the ones where the stereo is good, the chairs are comfortable, where it’s warm in winter and cool in the summer and the hall is full, and I’m not talking about malls. I don’t know why but I don’t have the same experience there (at the mall), I feel like the film is something secondary to nachos, popcorn, soft drinks, glasses of all sorts; the film isn’t the main element anymore. I would wish to see a film in the old cinemas if they would be restored. Maybe I’m way too optimistic, but I’m waiting for the day when the cinemas won’t shut their doors anymore, and they would go into restoration programmes. A country with no culture is a lost country! (C.H.M., 29, actor)

Before ’89 in the cinemas, now at the mall, but rarely. (M.R., 50, economist)

It seems like we discovered a certain pleasure for films, and for films in cinemas, but cinemas in Romania are lesser and lesser and their halls are still empty, probably because people used to go to the cinema more, before the Revolution. But maybe, with time (but not too much) and a lot of hope (and a lot of work too), something will change…

 And we finally, we got to our last questions, which is Romanian films’ main characteristic from their own personal point of view?

The main characteristic is psychoanalysis. (S.T., 41, teacher)

I think contemporary Romanian film is an anti-communist film. For me, it’s a bit too rough, too direct, and many times vulgar. It wants to depict the new transformation that our people face in our new lives. Rapid changes, and the new lifestyle that not everyone was ready for give the film a certain harshness, along with the vulgarity of the vocabulary, and the subject is an overwhelming reality. (N.P., 61, retired)

When I think about the Romanian films that I like, the main features would be: the interest for the social sphere; the naturalism in the depiction of the violence from our society; the humour that falls in grotesque sometimes; and intimacy, the action usually takes place in families etc., on a small scale.(A.S., 38, engineer)

I believe that the best Romanian films are those that manage to depict a social, political, family (etc.) reality, without excessive conceit. Have a touch of irony, and self-irony, black humour, which only give the film elegance and depth, and which are nonetheless characteristic to us, Romanians. Many times, the temptation of showing the rough reality, with no compromises, intransigent, make the films lack a certain litheness, make them feel heavy, burdening.

I’d say the main feature is the search for naturalism. (C.S., 35, economist)

The depth of the feelings they depict, the talented actors, for the films before 1989. (M.A., 46, teacher)

Romanian films, with no political stake, are characterized by realism. (S.C., 61, librarian)

When talking about symbols, resemblance with the Russian cinematography; the scripts are definitely European with an obvious French inspiration. (O.F., 57, IT)

Most of the time, Romanian films remind me of Balzac’s novella “Le chef d’oeuvre inconnu”. (D.C., 53, artist, lecturer)

Somewhat commercial and realist. (D.G., 54, librarian)

I’m not exactly sure how serious this question is, but I will answer exactly as I feel, meaning “The Borscht Bowl”. It feels like the film isn’t Romanian enough when this element is missing. I’m joking, of course, I believe that even the directors use this element with irony. The scene could easily be avoided, but either way, it doesn’t feel just as real when, in an old kitchen, the character consumes un coque au vine. (C.H.M., 29, actor)

As I don’t follow the phenomenon, I can’t make any assumption, but I think that Romanian film stirs thanks to its scripts which take their inspiration from everyday life, plus, talented actors. (M.R., 50, economist)

And that was all folks, hope you’ll be here with us next time as well because this isn’t for sure the last interview with the public.

 Special thanks to all the participants!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.