Monday, December 24, 2012

A Communist Past: A Very Married Christmas

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

I have written on Radu Muntean's Tuesday, After Christmas/ Marţi, după Crăciun (2010) before but I thought it would be interesting to mention it again as it is Christmas Eve and officially, Romanian Christmas on this very day. The film is the story of an affair and its repercussions and, in fact, does not have much to do with Christmas itself. It is more about the symbolism that is at play - Christmas is at the end of the year so it stands for the finishing off of things or bringing them to an end. The protagonist, Paul (Mimi Branescu) brings his marriage to an end at Christmas and his story is executed in flawless realist style. Tuesday, After Christmas is easily one of the best achievements of Romanian cinema.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Visual Diary: A Czechoslovakian Feudal Drama

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

František Vláčil's 'Marketa Lazarová' (1967) 

Throughout the 1960's in Europe there seemed to be a boom in medieval dramas. Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960) is at the forefront of this group of films, because of its ability to squeeze into various genres from Christianity, paganism and the occult to rape-revenge. Another film that comes to mind is Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) - a realist portrait of 15th century Russia.  But the images below derive from the Czech film Marketa Lazarová. Most cinephiles recognize the works of Tarkovsky and Bergman, but František Vláčil is not so well known, which is unfortunate because his films are extraordinary - there's just something eerie about Bohemian history that keeps audiences captivated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Communist Past: The Origins of My Interest in Eastern European Arts and Culture

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

Migration is a poem I wrote about six years ago. It details the transition and hardship of moving from a country of birth to an unknown new place. Once someone migrates they are stuck in limbo between the country where they have moved away from and the country where they have chosen to live. This is an issue that I have raised in my studies on Eastern European cinema - from a diasporic perspective. Romanian born director, Radu Mihaileanu, has a Jewish background and lives in France - so what does that make him?

This little piece of prose is the story of my family's migration from Romania to Australia back in 1991 when I was three years old.

Violently exposed to this unknown world-
Humidity’s odor shocks me.
What of this foreign language that... drowns... my ears

Three years old, on my mother’s hip, I depart from
All I know. Str. Anton Pann, Sighisoara.
"Where is Grandma?"
This is our home now
At this I feel a tear.
By thirteen, I emerge being accepted for the way I match my words to those that feel it counts-
"What’s this?" they say, "You’re not from here"-
"Of course" I lie, full of fear, knowing that
they may, in the canteen and the courtyard and the classroom
Slide away into the corner where I do not sit.

And what will happen at thirty-three?
What of this distant accent can I still speak?
"It’s nearly gone!" my mother weeps.
You let go of your native speech
For you were weak
And let them change
Your mind and your writing hand
Where all your selves once lay
But so quickly diminished when those kids
Said you pray-
"Why are you different?" they asked.
You never answered, instead you let them
make you someone else.
How sad it makes your world
And mine.

My mother, Mona, and I when we arrived in Germany, 
on the way to Australia.