Romania’s Best High Plains Comedy


All the grand poobahs of the film world continue to heap praise on the film Aferim:

It’s post-medieval (early 1800s, actually) Wallachia, and the two chatty riders we meet are mercenary “constables” traversing a peasant landscape of plague, frontier justice, and gypsy slaves.

Haven’t seen it myself but honestly, it sounds terrible. In the past 10 years I’ve seen only one kind of Romanian film ever get any traction abroad: dark, depressing, and/or horrific films shot in excruciatingly boring slow motion.

That being said, I’ve got an open mind so I’ll give it a chance if the Unsleeping Eye brings it my way. But if you love wide-shot movies in black and white with a ton of dialogue and no historical accuracy, by all means, give Aferim! a shot.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Here I have to disagree with you, Sam. I think that Aferim got so much attention abroad because it doesn’t resemble the other movies from the “New Wave”. I also hate most of the movies made in the past 25 years (I’m not even going to mention those made before) for their blatant milking of the “Communism was evil and left us traumatized for life” plot. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a terrible time in our history but one would think that 3 or 4 movies about it and its effects should be enough. At this point I think there are more films about this subject (at least from Romania) than about the second world war, which, at least in my opinion, is a much worse tragedy. That being said, Aferim gave me some kind of hope that we will finally move on to something new. Without spoiling anything, the movie made me laugh quite a lot, the story was actually documented (yey for historical accuracy) and most of the dialog is based on old documents from that era. The subject is also new and refreshing, gypsy slavery is not something that most Romanians know about (I didn’t) so it also draws attention towards parts of our history that we, being the amnesiac people that we are, completely forgot about. I know that you dislike black humor (you are in minority in this part of the world), so I’m not so sure you’ll find it as funny as me, but at least it will be refreshing ;) Also, completely off-topic, I read recently that you don’t like Romanian literature for the same reason, since it’s depressing and dark, which most certainly is, but I would like to ask you what books did you read? I want to know this simply because I find it fascinating how few of the foreigners I met, that have studied the Romanian language and culture, actually bothered to read our literature. Furthermore, I find it very interesting how one’s background can influence the type of books, or the type of subjects, they like to read.

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    1. I promise to watch Aferim when it comes around. As for Romanian literature, I’ve barely read anything due to the difficulty of old style verbs etc. But my wife is a huge fan so I’ll bow to her opinion on that one :-)

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      1. Ohh, that’s a shame! I was really curious to hear your opinion on “Ion”, “Baltagul”, “Moara cu noroc” and other classics. I guess that as a native I often forget that the old way of speaking present in these books might be difficult for a foreigner. But the one I was most curious about was “Tiganiada” (“The gypsy camp”, I guess), which is a funny and surreal epopee, written in an almost incomprehensible 19th century Romanian. If your wife has read it then I suggest asking her about it ;)

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      2. I will! Right now she just finished Marian Preda’s entire opus and I forget who she’s reading now, the one who wrote patul lui procrust

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  2. karl says:

    True, the Noul Val films are mostly slow and require some effort on behalf of the viewer, austere and most humour is of a rather black kind.

    Two faster paced Romanian films are Amentiri din Epoca de Aur (actually six short 20 min films, most in bright colours but set in the 1970s and 1980s) and Filantropica (lots of plot bends, post-communist in subject matter).

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    1. Yah Filantropica is pretty funny and has a coherent plot.

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