For those who love world cinema, there is no better feeling than discovering a new film movement.
Just as the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism gave birth to some of the most influential directors in history, Romanian New Wave Cinema has given the world a number of up-and-coming filmmakers whose work seems poised to become classics over time.
But what exactly is Romanian New Wave Cinema?
To answer these questions and more, here’s an introduction to this emerging genre.
Romanian New Wave Cinema
What Is Romanian New Wave Cinema?
The Romanian New Wave is a movement in Romanian cinema known for its expressive cinematography and the thematic focus on the effects of communism on the Romanian everyman.
The Romanian New Wave began with four films released between 2004 and 2005.
The Romanian New Wave is a genre of realist and often minimalist films made in Romania since the mid-aughts, starting with two award-winning shorts by two Romanian directors, Catalin Mitulescu and Cristi Puiu.
This was followed up by 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu which received significant international attention.
Romanian New Wave filmmakers have continued to make films that are realistic and minimally stylized while addressing matters of social crisis and political change in Romania.
What Is Romanian New Wave Cinema?
In the 21st century, Romania has emerged as a major exporter of film, with directors like Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”), Corneliu Porumboiu (“Police Adjective”) and Cristi Puiu (“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”) right at the forefront of this movement.
The so-called Romanian New Wave is not just one of the most exciting cinema movements to emerge in recent years but has become one of the most enduring.
The term was coined by critic Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian in 2008 to describe a new vanguard in Romanian cinema. “The wave began with two features which were both Cannes prizewinners: ‘The Death Of Mr Lazarescu’ (2005) and ’12:08 East Of Bucharest’ (2006),” he writes.
“They were joined by a third prizewinner at Cannes 2007: ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days,’ directed by Cristian Mungiu, who won that year’s Palme d’Or.”
This loose confederation of filmmakers has ushered Romania into the spotlight, and they have all been deeply influenced by the Romanian director Lucian Pintilie.
Romanian New Wave cinema began around the turn of the 21st Century. The first film to take the world by storm was The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which was released in 2005.
This was followed in 2007 by 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or.
This new wave of Romanian filmmaking is largely characterized by its use of handheld cameras and long takes. You’ll also see a return to classical, dramatic storytelling in these films — all but absent from Romanian cinema for decades, except for a few outliers like Lucian Pintilie’s Reconstituirea (1979) and Emil Loteanu’s La Medeleni (1985) and La Medeleni II (1987).
While most other Eastern European countries were busy pumping out beautiful, artistic films, Romania had been under communist rule since 1965 (the same year that ended Soviet filmmaking as we knew it). From that time until 1989, when communism officially ended in Romania, most of the country’s filmmakers were forced to work within harsh censorship guidelines.
History Of Romanian New Wave Cinema
Avant-garde film movements are typically small in number and short in duration. The Romanian New Wave is no exception, and the three directors that comprise the movement – Corneliu Porumboiu, Cristi Puiu, and Radu Muntean – were the critical voices of a country undergoing tumultuous social change.
The New Wave was birthed from a group of young filmmakers who had studied at the Film Institute in Bucharest between 2000-2004.Amongst them were Cristi Puiu and Corneliu Porumboiu, both of whom went on to win prizes at Cannes for their debut features; Ion Sapdaru, who went on to make shorts; and Alexandru Mihailescu, who made his first feature in 2006 after working as an assistant director on the other three directors’ previous projects.
The movement became synonymous with a rejection of the lingering communist mentality held by previous generations. It was a movement against passivity and inaction: be it the ideals held by the older generation or simply the idea that life moves forward without any input from us.
These young men wanted to create cinema that was real and honest; they wanted to tell stories that reflected their lives and their reality.In essence they wanted to tell stories about themselves.
Essential Filmmakers Of Romanian New Wave Cinema
During the communist regime in Romania, films were used as propaganda to support the government. However, a group of young filmmakers started experimenting with films that would have a deeper meaning beyond promoting the government.
They started making movies that clearly expressed their views about what was going on in their country. These films were known as Romanian New Wave films and they quickly caught the attention of other countries.
The movement started by these filmmakers is sometimes referred to as Neo-realism simply because it focused on reality rather than illusion. Many critics have called this movement one of the best cinematic movements ever.
If you’re interested in film or just history in general, here are some of the essential filmmakers from this era:Lucian Pintilie – Before becoming a filmmaker, Lucian Pintilie was an actor and theater director. His first feature length film was “O stea cade”.
This film is considered to be one of the best Romanian New Wave films and got him nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. After his first success, he went on to make more films such as “Tiganiada”, “Lacul Lebedelor” and “Aurora”.
Marian Crişan – Another famous contributor to Romanian New Wave.
Essential Films Of Romanian New Wave Cinema
The Romanian New Wave (Romanian: Noul Val) is the name given to a group of 1970s Romanian films, which brought international acclaim to several Romanian filmmakers, as well as international attention to Romanian cinema.Tina Diaconu’s “The Factory of Tears” and Dan Pița’s “Alice” are among the most famous examples of this movement.
In Romania, Mircea Sîntimbreanu’s article on The New Generation, published in Gazeta Literară on 9 September 1968, was perhaps the earliest attestation of the term.The movement ended after the December 1989 Revolution.
The revolution had a strong effect on the country’s cinematic output, bringing it to a near complete halt for a year and a half:no movies were made between October 1989 and May 1991; many cinemas closed, while those that remained open screened mostly American and European productions. In 1992 there were only 13 feature films produced.
After 1995 commercial pressures increased, as did Hollywood imports.The Romanian New Wave was born between 1965 and 1975, starting with Ion Popescu-Gopo’s Toate încep cu iubirea (Everything Starts With Love) and ending with Cristi Puiu’s first feature, Trei perechi (Three Couples).
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (2007)
The default language of the world is Romanian with English subtitles. There is a voiceover by a woman (the mother?) in the beginning, and then the film becomes largely silent.
It is the story of an abortion, but not in the usual pro-life vs pro-choice way. Puiu’s intention was to make a “neutral” film about abortion, both for and against it.
The movie opens with two young women sitting together in their underwear, talking about their boyfriends, drinking some alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Both have just been dumped by their boyfriends.
They are talking about how they are going to have an abortion.One says she cannot have a baby at this time because she needs to finish her exams and do something with her life before becoming a mother.
The other one says that she doesn’t want to have the baby because she wants to go live in Italy with her boyfriend.She doesn’t really want to raise the child herself because she thinks that she is not ready for this kind of responsibility.
They go through several stages of trying to get an abortion or someone who could help them get an abortion until they finally find someone who will do it for them (for money). Throughout these scenes you see various characters smoking and drinking quite often.
California Dreamin’ (Endless) (2007)
“California Dreamin’ (Endless)” is the third and final single released from The Cat Empire’s third album, “So Many Nights”. It is an extended version of the track “California Dreamin'”, which features on the band’s second album, “Two Shoes”, in a shorter form.
It was performed live at the ARIA Music Awards of 2007 by the band, who were nominated for ‘Best Independent Release’ for their 2006 album “So Many Nights”.The song was added to high rotation on Triple J radio in early 2007 and was aired frequently on Channel V around this time.
The song also appears on their compilation albums “Live in Paris” and “Live at St Kilda Festival”, as well as their DVD “On the Attack”.The music video for “California Dreamin’ (Endless)” was filmed in the Sydney Opera House in which The Cat Empire play to a large audience.
It features singer Felix Riebl’s girlfriend dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, who dances with him throughout the song.This is one of several tie-ins with Marilyn Monroe; The Cat Empire’s first album includes a cover of her song “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and they have played this song at most of their shows since 2005.
Police, Adjective (2009)
The first thing that hits you when you watch Police, Adjective is the camera itself. Wojciech Staroń’s handheld camera gets right in the thick of things, and even at times seems to be participating in the action.It’s a style that feels very much influenced by movies from the Dogma 95 collective.
Unfortunately, Staroń doesn’t have their talent for it.The movie is loaded with amateurish moments, and I couldn’t shake off a feeling of annoyance at many of them.
The movie starts out well enough, with a man (Mariusz Więcek) struggling against the police and its methods in broad daylight.He manages to escape from the grasp of two officers (who are wearing only sunglasses – no helmets or other protective gear).
They give chase to him through streets and backyards, until he finally stops running and asks for his rights.His question about why he has been chased turns into a scream as he is arrested once again.
It was just so ridiculous that I was confused whether to laugh or cry during these scenes.Staroń really didn’t seem to know what he wanted to do with this material – be it an action thriller or a drama.
If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (2010)
Festival goers are in for a treat with the latest offering from filmmaker Amos Gitai, who in If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (2010) combines his trademark documentary style with an exciting story line. Written by Gitai himself and starring French actor Daniel Auteuil, the film is based on the real life of an infamous 1950s Israeli gangster, Uri Geller.
While this may seem like a strange choice for a festival film, it is actually perfect for the kind of atmosphere that a festival provides.Telling the story of an ex-convict returning from a long prison sentence to find his wife has left him for another man and his criminal empire has been stolen by someone else, If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle is about as far removed as possible from the sappy romances that fill the screens at festivals.
But it still has all the elements of a good drama: suspense, action and intrigue.Gitai’s background in documentaries really shows through here. There is not so much a plot as there are scenes depicting different aspects of Geller’s life.
One minute he’s in prison, next he’s out and now he runs a nightclub with his brother, later he’s working as a spy for.
Tuesday, After Christmas (2010)
Roughly every other year, there is a day where I really miss the days of being single and having no one to buy presents for. This year that day was today.
Tuesdays after Christmas are hard. No, not because everyone you work with has been drinking too much and is extra grumpy at the office, but because all the shopping and wrapping and cooking and parties leading up to this day have all led to this point.
It’s a lot of effort to get someone else something they don’t want or need.I could be caught up in all of the heart-warming holiday stories on TV today, but I’d rather not.
Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting events that happened on this day over the years:December 26, 1854 – The first ever mail order catalog was published by Richard Sears. Over time he would expand his catalog from watches to guns (Sears Roebuck & Co) to just about everything you could think of.
Nearly 150 years this business model is still alive and kicking. Just ask Amazon.
January 2, 1912 – William Fox’s Fox Theatres chain opens its first film studio (Fox Studios) in New York City. His company would eventually open several other movie studios before.
The Autobiography Of Nicolae Ceaușescu (2010)
Nicolae Ceauşescu was born in Scorniceşti, Romania. He studied Law at the University of Bucharest, graduating in 1948.
In the same year he joined the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), which had been outlawed by King Mihai I since 1947.In 1950 he joined a team of reporters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
From 1955 he worked as a diplomat in Prague and London. During this time, he cultivated good relations with the Soviet Union and was a supporter of its foreign policy and ideology.
In 1957 he became head of the Central Committee’s European department, holding this post until 1960. By then Ceauşescu was openly supporting the idea that Romania should become part of the Eastern Bloc.
Due to his political stance, Ceauşescu was arrested in 1960 after an anti-communist demonstration in Bucharest and imprisoned at Jilava prison for four months. After his release from prison, he was promoted to become secretary general of the RCP’s Central Committee, being elected to membership on the Central Committee at its June 1960 plenary session.
He held these posts until 1965 when he became First Secretary to RCP’s Bacău County Committee; this position did not imply that he held. This is the full text of the autobiography written by Nicolae Ceaușescu.
I have only added a few footnotes for clarity, some of them about things in Romania you might not understand if you are from outside the country.
Child’s Pose (2013)
The director’s latest is a highly personal, but universal tale about the pain of loss, the struggle to be forgiven, and the possibility of healing. In his portrayal of a wealthy, middle-aged man whose life has fallen apart, he again deals with the themes that have so preoccupied him: the mystery of faith, the power of redemption, and the redemptive love between a parent and child.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival will be remembered as a remarkable comeback for Romanian cinema. After years of struggling against an international reputation for plagiarism and corruption in its film industry—a reputation as harsh as its former communist dictatorship—Romania finally got back on track.
Two of its films competed for the coveted Palme d’Or: Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond The Hills and Laurentiu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective.And both won awards at Cannes. In addition to these two winners, two other Romanian films were presented in competition at this year’s festival: Tudor Giurgiu’s Child’s Pose (read our review here) and Radu Muntean’s Aurora.
Child’s Pose is an intense and emotional drama that centers on a mother (Tilda Swinton) and her adult son (Ion Caras-Roman) as they grapple with their family bonds.Tilda Swinton – Wife/Mother Ion Caras-Roman – Son.
Occident is a 2002 South Korean science fiction film directed by Park Kwang-hyun. The movie was released on December 13, 2002 in South Korea and screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival on October 12, 2003.
In 2047, the mining ship “Occident” arrives at a planet covered with sand to collect valuable minerals. The ship’s crew discovers that the planet is inhabited by intelligent lifeforms.
Dr. Park Hyung-jin (Nam Sang-mi) analyzes the DNA of a dead alien and discovers that it has 97% similarity with humans’.Her assistant Yoo Kyung-shik (Cho Seung-woo) reports this to Commander Lee Jae-hwan (Jo Sung-ha).
He then orders Yoo to kill off all of the aliens and he does so by sending out an attack squad. However, Dr. Park refuses to cooperate because acquiring the alien’s DNA would provide answers regarding human evolution.
The crew is gradually killed off one by one except for Commander Lee and Dr. Park who are taken hostage by a group of aliens led by Hwa-yi (Lee Joon), who speaks Korean fluently. The aliens then take them back to their settlement and imprison them in a cell.
Importance Of Romanian New Wave Cinema
Romanian cinema was born in the communist period, a period during which many filmmakers were censored and struggled to produce work. Due to such circumstances, Romanian cinema emerged with a unique character that is reflected in its controversial humor and political ambiguity.
During the 1960s, the Romanian cinema industry was at its peak, producing a lot of films that went on to win awards at international festivals. However, after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, it all came to a halt.
During the communist period, Romania had many difficulties with Western countries due to strong censorship by the government and even the communist party’s own propaganda machine. The regime imposed strict rules over what could be shown on screen.
As a result of this strict censorship and ensuing artistic limitations, a new wave of Romanian directors began to emerge. This “new wave” is commonly referred to as “the black wave”, due to their tendency towards dark and often depressing subject matter.
Romanian New Wave Cinema refers primarily to an artistic movement rather than one specific group of directors or actors; hence it overlaps with other European cinematic movements such as Italian Neorealism and French New Wave.
The main characteristics of New Wave Romanian cinema are: the use of non-professional actors; improvisation; shooting in black-and-white.
Romanian New Wave Cinema Theory
These films are not only classics of Romanian cinema, but they are also masterpieces in the global cinematic canon. They are universally loved and praised by critics and film theoreticians, as well as by filmgoers.
Although they were mostly seen in Romania, many have been distributed internationally and won prizes at important international film festivals.
Romanian New Wave Cinema is also known for its authors’ unique visual style, which is both a result of the limits imposed on them by the Romanian communist regime and an early example of postmodernism in cinema.
The films explore the relationship between reality and fiction, in which the characters tend to be confused about their identities, trapped in a maze of lies and secrets, unable to free themselves from their own stories.
Romanian New Wave Cinema has had a notable impact on world cinema from its beginnings up until the present day. Many directors have acknowledged that they were inspired by these films and have tried to build upon their achievements.
Some of these directors include Andrei Zviachenko (The White Sun of the Desert), Peter Greenaway (The Belly of an Architect), Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves), Ken Loach (Land and Freedom), István Szabó (Sunshine), Cristian Mungiu.
The End Of Romanian New Wave Cinema
The end of an era. The death of a movement. The evolution of Romanian cinema.
All these phrases could describe the new film by Radu Muntean called “The Paper Will Be Blue,” which premiered at the recent Venice Film Festival.
This is the first film from the young generation of Romanian filmmakers who were born in the 80s. They are not part of the New Wave (which started with “The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu”) and they don’t belong to any other kind of wave, either.
In fact, Radu Muntean is considered a representative of the New Wave directors, but he doesn’t want to be labeled as such (which is why he has been distancing himself from this genre for some time now).But, anyway, “The Paper Will Be Blue” is a really good film and it’s definitely worth watching.
It deals with themes that have been explored by many other Romanian filmmakers before him: love, identity, moral decay and social hypocrisy.But these themes have never been expressed in such an honest and profound way as in this movie.