Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Film Review: The Stone Wedding/ Nunta de piatra (1973) by Dan Piţa and Mircea Veroiu (Romania)

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Note: Like many Romanian films made up until the early 1990s, The Stone Wedding remains without English subtitles. It is worth, however, taking some patience to watch this scene. Even if the words are not understood, the images are powerful enough to convey what is happening in the plot.

The Stone Wedding is divided into two parts, or if you like, two films of medium length placed back to back. The first part titled Fefeleaga is directed by Mircea Veroiu, a celebrated filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. Veroiu's style can be described as a poetic concoction of powerful images and symbolic realism. Fefeleaga is a story about a poor peasant woman who has lost her husband and sons to a rare disease. Her daughter is barely alive, suffering from the same illness. The widow, played by the brilliant actress Leopoldina Bălănuță, works long hours to provide for her sick daughter, but receives minimal pay from the wealthy Boier (landowner). After the widow's daughter passes, she uses what money she has to purchase a wedding gown and veil for her daughter to be buried in. This is Veroiu's interpretation of the title "Stone Wedding". The deceased virgin girl is buried by her mother in a wedding dress--an example of Veroiu's use of symbolic realism.

The following video details, in slow-cinematic form, the widow's solitude and grief as she walks her white mare into town and unwillingly sells it in order to provide for her daughter's funeral.

The second part is directed by another well-known Romanian filmmaker called Dan Piţa. It examines a different kind of exploration of the term "Stone Wedding". The film starts and ends with a wedding celebration, in which there is very little dialogue. As the film opens, the audience is introduced to a party of wedding guests that abidingly follow the bride and groom as they walk throughout a rural township. They engage in various wedding customs before arriving at their wedding banquet. What is clear from the very beginning is that the bride is unhappy and thus we assume that she has been forced into this marriage. The groom, as ugly and grotesque as his character appears, can be assumed to be of a wealthy background.

The banquet scene is one of the most powerful segments in the entire film. As the couple sit beside each other at the long table, the bride refuses to eat next to her new husband who in turn slurps his soup and tears at his meat dish in a beastly way. This is a stone wedding where the guests eat, drink and aren't all that merry. The music continues to play and the bride moves her gaze over to one of the young musicians. They continue making eye contact with each other and at one point meet for a brief chat, but it is quickly interrupted by the bride's jealous husband. The film ends on a somewhat happy note, as the bride and the musician run away together, but it comes with tragic consequences that are reminiscent of I.L. Caragiale's prose.