'Morometii 2' (translated in English as 'Moromete Family: On the Edge of Time) was the second film that I saw at the Romanian Film Festival organized in Israel these days, and the screening yesterday at the cinematheque in Herzlya was followed by a meeting of the producer Tudor Giurgiu with the local audience. On this occasion, I learned that the film written and directed by Stere Gulea beat the record of the number of viewers in the cinema halls in Romania in recent years. I am not surprised by this fact, as the film touches strings that have not vibrated for a while in the minds and souls of Romanian spectators. It's about nostalgia - the theme as well as the way to make cinema -, the film is blessed by a cast that includes some of the most talented and popular Romanian actors from several generations, and it's also the screening of a book that Romanian viewers know from the school benches. And yes, it's a solid, well-done film with many qualities that justify the price of the ticket and the time spent in the cinema theater.
If we look carefully, we are dealing with this two stories in this film, two stories that the screenwriter and director combine in one narrative, two worlds that start from the same place, but which will break apart irremediably. The first one is the world of Ilie Moromete, the main character in the first volume of the book that gave the name of the film, and the hero of the first film directed by Stere Gulea 31 years earlier. It is the world of the Romanian village, the basis of the economy and of the Romanian culture for centuries. In the previous film whose action was taking place in the interwar period, we saw this world threatened by the changes brought about by capitalism - modernity but also new morals, difficult to reconcile with the traditions. Ilie Moromete tries to resist with his skeptical wisdom and with the spirit of adaptation specific to the peasants in hard times. In 'Morometii 2' we are in 1945 and the threat is much more serious and aggressive, it is about the transformations brought by communism sustained by the Soviet occupation. The revolution is radical in this case, the change imposed by the new leaders includes forced collectivization and the destruction of private property. It is the end of an era and of a whole civilization, and this time Moromete's conservative skepticism and his instinctive resistance to change will no longer be enough. The second world described in the film is that of Niculae Moromete, the younger son in the family, a chip that jumped away from the trunk as Romanians say, through his desire to read and learn. He too, like his older brothers, will leave his native village, but in his case the personal change is much more radical, anticipating a social transformation that would follow, reducing numerically the peasantry class and destroying it from a cultural and lifestyle point of view
Stere Gulea does not actually brig to screen faithfully the second volume of 'Morometii' but rather extrapolates and combines it with elements from other books by Marin Preda, or with biographical information gathered from his diligent documentation work. Marin Preda is probably one of the Romanian writers who best described the transition period between interwar capitalism and democracy and the communist dictatorship, but he wrote during the communist era, and his anti-communism, if it existed, could never be explicit . In Stere Gulea's film we are dealing with a 'what-if' version of the themes and characters of Marin Preda. If he had lived and created in a period without censorship, this may, perhaps, would have been the path taken by Preda. Or maybe not.
What I liked. The cinematography is gorgeous. The decision to shoot in black and white is perfectly justified. The natural environment, the houses, the interiors, the costumes, the requisites - all render finely, in detail, without being ostentatious and strident, the period in which the action takes place. Horatiu Malaele's acting play is superb. His character has spirit and nobility. From now on, when Ilie Moromete's name will be mentioned, his face in this role will appear right before my eyes. The film has style, a style typical of the 'classic' Romanian cinema, renewing a thread interrupted by the two last decades of 'new wave'. It is one of the directions of the Romanian cinema that deserves to be continued. What I liked less. The combination between the descriptions of the two worlds is not always harmonious. There are many characters in the film that represent similar categories and typologies and they are too little differentiated - the children of Ilie Moromete, the peasants in the village who oppose collectivization, the acolytes of the new regime. Even the presence in some roles of excellent actors who do everything they know and can (and the know and can do a lot) is not enough to create credible and memorable characters. 'Morometii 2'is a good film that will not be overlooked by the history of Romanian cinema, but which misses the chance of being equal to the first film in the series and becoming one of the remarkable films of this history.
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