Independenta Romaniei (1912)

Why, yes, I do go out of my way to bring you obscure shit, thanks for noticing… and this is about as big a historical oddity as I’m likely to bring you. I know Romania’s kind of become one of the more recent fashionable hotspots of world cinema, but I was intrigued to discover they were making feature films there as early as 1912, this very one in fact. And that, unlikely as it sounded, the thing still existed. Not just that, it was on Youtube, and—least likely of all—someone had created subtitles for it. So I couldn’t resist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a pretty difficult watch. The film has no credits and apparently the director (Aristide Demetriade) was not identified until as recently as 1985, and we may safely say that whoever he was, he was no D.W. Griffith. Independenta is filmed almost entirely in immobile long shot and generally long takes (I think some went on for a few minutes), and cutting may be charitably called “minimal”. I recall literally a single medium shot, and that came early on in the film (a scene where one of the villagers and his girl farewell each other); everything else is kind of like The Red and the White five and a half decades avant la lettre. Only Jancso made his film that way as a deliberate matter of style, here it just looks like primitiveness of technique. Still, some of the battle scenes have a certain rough vigour and the number of people Demetriade fits on the screen at times is remarkable, though I suppose the film’s very existence is its most interesting aspect. I kept wondering what films Demetriade and his cohorts would’ve seen at that time, cos this predates most of the films I can think of that might’ve inspired them to make their own. And would those films have even been shown in Romania anyway. “Historical oddity”, all right…

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