strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
This is a Romanian film about the historical Dracula, which tells the story of his main reign from taking the Wallachian throne in 1456 to his arrest on the orders of Matthias Corvinus in 1462. It isn't legally available to buy in the UK, so I watched it on Youtube (complete with English subtitles), partly to see if it would help me in my current efforts to learn Romanian, and partly of course for its own sake as a portrayal of Dracula.

On the language-learning front, it wasn't a great deal of help, mainly because I just haven't learnt enough yet to be able to pick up new words or constructions from context, but perhaps also partly because the sound-quality on the Youtube video is pretty poor, making everything sound a bit distant and unclear. I'd say I was able to recognise something like about one word in a hundred, which obviously wouldn't get me very far in a real-life situation! But hopefully I will at least have tuned in to the rhythms and structures of Romanian just a little bit while watching it, and maybe if I come back to it shortly before actually going there, I will find by then that I can get more out of it.

On the portrayal-of-Dracula front, though, it was absolutely fascinating. It is, of course, a product of Communist Romania, released right in the middle of Ceaușescu's time in power, and needs to be understood in that light )

That's not to say it isn't also deadly serious history )

There was one scene which really jarred for me from a political / moral perspective, though, while not needing to be there at all from a historical one. This concerned the story from the pamphlets about Dracula and the beggars )

I also noticed that there wasn't a single woman in a speaking role throughout the entire 2hr15m film )

Despite such reservations, though, I really liked the film as a piece of drama. The story is dramatically plausible, following a satisfying narrative arc from Dracula's noble aims at the start of the film to his tragic downfall at the end. And its star, Stefan Sileanu in the title role, is absolutely excellent. He really inhabits the part, endowing it with all the intensity, self-belief and sense of purpose which really have to be there for Dracula's actions to come across as convincing, but also showing us the moments of vulnerability and despair which also have to be there for him to appear human. I particularly enjoyed a scene in which some of his enemies fled into an Orthodox church for sanctuary, but Dracula ordered them to be dragged out and punished anyway, leading to a crackling set-piece between him and the priest about the rights and wrongs of what he is doing. Furthermore, he has fantastic eyebrows, wears excellent hats throughout (nicely modelled on the historical portraits), and looks good on a throne or a horse:

Helmet Intense With torch Enthroned

That said, if you weren't super-into the history, I suspect the 2hr15m running time and Romanian-language soundtrack would be off-putting. For me right now, though, it was great!

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strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
I know the entire world saw this film and loved it nearly a decade ago, but I somehow never got round to it, so I'm just catching up.

I may not have chosen the best time, actually. I think the circumstances of my life at the moment mean I'm a bit too tired and cynical to really engage with its life-affirming message. Ironically for a film about escapism, it wasn't escapist enough for my present needs.

Still, I did enjoy it as a finely-crafted work of art. All of the performances are excellent, the camera-work was playfully innovative and interesting without being distracting, and I loved the muted colour palette which managed to make modern-day Paris look as though it had slipped backwards into the golden haze of the '50s and '60s. It made me laugh sometimes, too, especially when we saw the results of the naughty tricks which Amélie played on M. Collignon (the green-grocer), so I'm not completely beyond hope.

It did give me a bit of a shock language-wise, though. I've been watching TV5 Monde at home quite a lot lately, and it had lulled me into a false sense of security about my French language competence, since I can watch it quite happily with no need of subtitles and follow pretty much everything that's going on. But TV5 Monde consists mainly of news programmes and documentaries, in which clear factual information is explained slowly and distinctly in the crispest of accents by presenters who are aiming quite consciously at a global audience, including non-native French speakers. Amélie, on the other hand, is full of people speaking in idiomatic and sometimes slangy everyday French at an enormously rapid pace. I didn't half need the subtitles, I can tell you.

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