C is for Cinema

396px-Cartel-propaganda-comunista-hungría-III--ladictaturedupro00lebruoft

When I lived in Romania, cinema and television had less to do with artistic expression and more with illustration of ideology.

Theater and film were a tool of the Party. “Admiration” for our leader was the theme at the heart of artistic projects. Anyone who did or said otherwise would be visited by Securitate (the secret police).

Sounds dark? Let’s explore further.

Romanian cinema started around 1897, with actualities — one-shot scenes showing moments of everyday life.  

1911 marked the start of the silent-film era with Amor Fatal. This continued well into the ’30s, when cinema entered the consciousness of writers and cultural figures. One such cinematic figure, Constantin Tanase, wrote and started in Visul lui Tanase (Tanase’s Dream), a film depicting one man’s dream and his hopes for the  theater.

VisulTanase

Tanase’s Dream

The Socialist Cinema

In 1948 a law regarding “the nationalization of the film industry and the regulation of cinematic products” was signed. This started the period of socialist cinema when in Lenin’s words: “of all the arts, the most important for us is cinema,” however not as an art but as an instrument of ideological influence.

The new regime wasted no time in fully subsidizing the production of films for dissemination of propaganda.

I remember we had some four hours of daily TV, and this typically included: (1) news, showing the dictator visiting a factory/plant while being venerated by the populace; (2) sometimes a short film, which advanced a party objective; (3) a program describing how we lived a much better life than any nation due to the hard work of our beloved leader —  at times via poetry. Theatre was the same, minus the news.

VCRs and unscreened movies were prohibited, but everyone knew someone who secretly owned a VCR, and small groups of friends gathered from time to time to watch exactly such a movie. The spirit of freedom can only be limited so much and for so long.   

New era

The collapse of communism once again changed the Romanian cinema. Filmmakers began producing international successes such as The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, which won at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. 

One of my favorites, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a film set in the final days of communism, telling the story of two students and an illegal abortion won the Palme d’Or Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. 

As my Roman ancestors would say:  Vive Artis!

~ Tomorrow’s post is  D for Dracula (while still somewhat a historic post, we’re moving away from the political talk).  Thank you & hope to see you then.

——

Images: Hungarian communist propaganda poster, 1919: “Proletarian, defend the Soviet republic!” by: Lebrun, Armand, Wikimedia, CC; Still from Constantin Tănase’s movie “Visul lui Tănase” (1932), Wikimedia Commons: {{PD-US}} – published in the US before 1923 and public domain

 

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31 responses to “C is for Cinema

  1. Hi Silvia .. I can quite understand these series of events – propaganda is a very nasty weapon against people .. and going from an enlightened age in the late 1800s/early 1900s … then communism and complete shut down – awful .. thank goodness I never had to experience it – but it opens your eyes … and you’re showing us .. cheers Hilary

  2. Great post! Looking forward to tomorrows post as well. :)
    Misty at Dancing In The Weeds</

  3. A very thorough post. Great info you’ve got here, Silvia. Will visit you again.

  4. Nice post, Silvia. I must look at your links thoroughly! I cannot wait to see what you write about Vlad (the Impaler)! Cheers, mdc

  5. I had no idea what it was like when you were growing up, Sylvia! But I should have suspected from my experiences living in Prague for a year before the Velvet Revolution. You have so much to offer your readers!

    • One of the reasons I don’t talk about it much (publicly). Seems unreal doesn’t it? Even to me, after all these years. But people found ways to enjoy life, believe me. Like in the VCR example. Thanks, Noelle, for reading and for sharing a bit about the Velvet Revolution.

  6. America did that too. Ever heard of Edward Bernays? He’s related to Freud and is responsible for social engineering in America. Interesting stuff.

  7. It sounds to me that the end of communism opened up a river of artistic creative passion. Very interesting stuff Silvia!

  8. True culture and individual expression find their way out through the arts.

  9. I love this post, but I will have to read tomorrow’s post with a crucifix in my hands – I watched one Dracula film a bit too early in life and the fear has never left me. :-)
    Best,
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

  10. fascinating post. During WW II in the US film was used to boost the war effort – maybe not propaganda but close

    Thanks for your comment

  11. Wow, Silvia, it’s hard to imagine living under such restrictions. We take our freedom of expression so for granted! I’m loving reading your posts on Romania!

  12. Good on Romania for moving out of that dark period Sylvia. It is so scary to realise the effects of propaganda on the population. I’ll check out your links when time permits. Thank you for this enlightening and interesting post.

  13. I love hearing the stories of how black market movies were smuggled into countries with suffocating regimes. A little revolution.

  14. I can how Lenin would love control of the cinema! When I see the words, ideological influence…I translate that to indoctrination and control and it scares me, deep down in my soul. Enjoying learning about Romania, thank you.
    Maggie@Expatbrazil

  15. I love reading about different cultures. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about Dracula!

  16. I love foreign film, both old and new, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any Romanian cinema. I’d be particularly interested in the silent films.

  17. I can imagine the creativity and excitement that must have been there for artists in the first few years after cinema and theatre was truly opened up again. How fascinating.

  18. I loved “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” so much. Such a great film, with subtlety and great acting. Especially for a man who has no experience growing up in a country going through such times, it was eye-opening. To anyone else reading, I also recommend it. And the rest of your post was fascinating as well, thanks for writing and sharing it!

  19. It’s so interesting to learn not only about cinema in Romania but also a more intimate snapshot of your past there.
    Thanks for sharing this. :)

  20. A very different time. But, people and places change. Enjoyed the snapshot of the time for you.

  21. And to think people here consider TV as propaganda. In a way it is, as it is aimed at the most vulnerable, the children.

  22. fascinating! I’m going backward because I missed these. Love it!

I welcome your thoughts.

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