Lords Phanariot in Cinema

From a cinematic point of view, the Phanariot period was not of direct importance. Life in the Phanariot courts, intrigues, misfortunes, wars and conquests, or many other things that could have been depicted in film were not subjects worthy of the filmmakers’ appreciation. Indeed, it has been hard to approach them since the entirety of Roman historiography, from 1848 to the December 1989 Revolution, spoke with hatred and contempt for the 100 years of Phanarian rulers.

The main film representations of that period relate to films with outlaws and beaks. Before the inauguration of the communist regime, several silent films were made that dealt with these themes: “Ianko Gianno” (1929), “Outlaws” (1929) and “Siokoi” (1931). These films were produced by Horia Igerochano, a director with great sympathy. Hence the only idea that transcends these productions, which has been severely criticized from a cinematic point of view, is the aggravation of patriotism and patriotism. The Tudor (1963) by Lucien Pratto best paints the official discourse on the Phanariote and the period against which the main protagonist: the Phanariote, is like a group of thieves – the Tajma thieves. The idea would be further developed in the following years in fictional films, but not in a historical film that is part of the national epic.

The same characters who were in the interwar period – outlaws and bullies – are also of interest to the filmmakers who made films during the communist era. The series Outlaws, which debuted in 1966, features the best Romanian actors of the moment: Toma Caragio, Amza Pelia, Ion Bisuyu, Magda Barbu, Kolya Roto, and later Florin Persic. Although it has pleased many, “Outlaws” (1966), “The Rapture of Virgins” (1968), “Revenge of the Outlaws” (1968), “Outlaws of Şaptecai” (1968), “Dowry of Miss Ralu” ( 1971) or “Madness Week” (1971) I don’t talk much about when the event happens, and often we don’t know exactly when the story happens. Only the last film in the series tells about the revolution of Theodor Vladimirescu. This series, which was very popular in those years, continued with the “Beaded” series (Bone Road – 1980, Yellow Rose – 1982, Bucharest Mysteries – 1983, Silver Mask – 1985, Turquoise Necklace – 1986, Everything Paid – 1987 ), which took place between 1821 and 1848.

For the less familiar viewer, it is very difficult to perceive the change of times, because almost all of these films look timeless. Rulers or boyars are permanently broken by the people, and this collective figure, so necessary for communist propaganda, is the glorified one. However, the historical nebula in which the story is presented is not to be condemned. After all, this series is one of adventures, with many comic accents.

Apart from the “Mărgelatu” series, there is also the second show of the outlaw Iancu Jianu Zapciul, from 1980, in which Adrian Pintia and Stella Furcovici play the main roles. The film focuses on the hero’s life and his struggle for people. The patriotic monologues uttered in the film are part of the official Golden Age historical discourse about the Phanarian Age. Foreigners are seen as negative agents who sell the country’s wealth and bring poverty. Also, the boyars and the neo-rich in the 18th and 19th centuries would have the same fate in “Tănase Scatiu” (1978), a film made after Duiliu Zamfirescu’s books. Unlike others, this film does not bear the political-ideological responsibility for national communism, but the presentation of the decadence of the old owner and the rise of the bourgeoisie seems to fit with Ceausescu’s propaganda.

Even after the 1989 revolution, no films were made about the Phanariot period. However, Radu Jude’s “Aferim” (2015) captures the social history sequence very well, which could have taken place before 1821, although the action was set during periods of Regulatory rule.

This text is an excerpt from the article “Why Do We Speak Bad About Phanariot” published in Historia Special No. 14, available in digital form on the platform paydemic.com

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