Feb 3, 2017

Serge Parajanov and Tengiz Abuladze: two Models of Anticommunist Testimony through Cinema in Soviet Georgia

A study that I sustained at the 13-rd International Symposium on Science, Technology and Arts (IISTA - 2014), "Eucharist and Martyrdom. From the Ancient Catacombs to the Communist Camps", at "1 Decembrie" University of Alba Iulia, 6-8 May 2014

Published in the International Journal of Orthodox Theology nr. 5/3, 2014

Jul 21, 2016

The Afternoon of a Torturer & Bless You, Prison: 2 Cinematic Insights into the Romanian GULAG

The study was first published in 2007 (with the title ”Two Insights into the Romanian GULAG) on kinokultura.com/specials/6/dulgheru.shtml. Afterwards it was presented (with small modifications) at The International Conference “Totalitarianism and Literary Discourse (20th century experience)” - The Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature, Tbilisi (Georgia), October 7-9, 2009, and was published in the volume ”Totalitarianism and Literary Discourse. 20th Century Experience”, еditor: Irma Ratiani, Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2011. 

”Bless You, Prison!”: a paradigm of the spiritual light
Two complementary authors, two ways to relate to history. In spite of a vast and relatively abundant “prison literature,” communist detention camps have been rarely represented in Romanian cinema after 1989 (of course, before the fall of communism the subject was absolutely off limits). Only two filmmakers, Nicolae Margineanu and Lucian Pintilie, have dealt in a serious way with this still delicate subject and, in many ways, their approaches could be considered as opposites.
Margineanu and Pintilie belong approximately to the same generation and both filmmakers have a solid professional reputation, have produced a significant oeuvre, and have maintained a certain continuity in their ideological universe. Each of them commands a distinct body of work that has artistic value and aesthetic vision, and their films are unified by a passionate preoccupation with the so-called “Romanian phenomenon.” Both try to fathom recent or relatively recent Romanian history, which they painstakingly scan not so much for the sake of history itself, as much as to find answers to actual ethical dilemmas of Romanian people. The two filmmakers' perspectives differ, however, in their approach to and affective relationship with their treated subjects, and therefore in their feeling of belonging (or not), of complicity (or not) with the evoked social universe .
Nicolae Margineanu accepts the past “as is,” with the aim of understanding it from the defining position of the Classical Realist paradigm: that of a disciple facing “Master-Reality.” For his projects he selects heroic moments and exemplary individuals from the “Romanian chronicle”; his effort to understand and reconstitute epochs, heroes, and mentalities is a tribute to the ancestors in order to anchor the moral axis of the present. Avoiding aestheticism, Margineanu treats reality synthetically, as a social fresco that underscores the struggles of conscience his characters undergo. Through his empathic examination, he succeeds in bringing these symbols of the Romanian cultural universe closer to present-day viewers?the painter Stefan Luchian, [1] the peasant-writer Ion Creanga, [2] the national poet Mihai Eminescu [3] —and in the process, the present reveals itself as a continuation of the essential ethical foundation of the past. Margineanu's analytical and empathic abilities enable him to understand and revive his subjects in the context of their times. His immersion into the past in order to enrich and ennoble the present spiritually is exceptional in contemporary Romanian cinema, which is mostly preoccupied—as are many other European cinemas—with the so-called “autonomous present” that is cut off from the past.
”The Afternoon of a Torturer”: an opposite paradigm of the light (blindness)
Lucian Pintilie is at the antipode of classicism's respect for acknowledged values. He feels a permanent need to challenge any fundamentals in order to impose his own, personal view. Demiurgical and deconstructive, polemist par excellence (and, as a consequence, strongly “anti-empathic”), he situates himself at a pulpit somewhere above history and society, from where he mercilessly pronounces his verdicts upon a world that is he sees more as a theatrum mundi or a zoo, and to which he doesn't feel he belongs. He chooses extreme, bewildering, or uncomfortable historical situations — for example, in The Unforgettable Summer (O vară de neuitat, 1994) or Too Late (Prea târziu, 1996) —which he cinematically recomposes (or “deconstructs,” as he likes to say), in order to prove a predefined thesis that is formulated as historically or socially irrefutable. His cinematic poetics, marked by a very personal kind of Surrealism, is aggressive, always surprising, rich in black humor and the absurd, and gives preference to subjectivity over historical reality, which becomes just a pretext for the magisterial development of his auctorial thesis.
Yet despite their different approaches, the two directors have found inspiration in the same texts about Romanian history. In a recent short film (Tertium non datur, 2005), Pintilie adapted Vasile Voiculescu's [4] story “Auroch's Head” (Capul de zimbru) about Romanian soldiers during World War I, in which patriotism and military dignity provide the main themes. A decade earlier, the same literary work inspired Nicolae Margineanu in his TV film Auroch's Head (1996).

From Either Side of the Wall

Pintilie's The Afternoon of a Torturer (Dupa-amiaza unui tortionar) and Margineanu's Bless You, Prison (Binecuvântata fii, închisoare) were released in 2002. Both films were inspired by contemporary literary sources: The Road to Damascus (Drumul Damascului), a long interview conducted by the journalist Doina Jela, and the autobiographical book Bless You Prison by Nicole-Valery Grossu, respectively.
The texts belong to the current trend of unmasking and exposing the crimes of the Romanian communist regime. The two films are different not only in their genres, but also in their antithetical views of the communist prisons. Doina Jela's book focuses on the image of the torturer, who is almost faceless, caricatured and grotesque. The book by Nicole-Valery Grossu, by comparison, examines the life of a militant member of the Romanian Peasant Party, [5] accused and imprisoned by the Stalinist regime for her political convictions. Jela's book is structured as an incriminating inquiry that is followed by answers verging on the absurd. That is why Pintilie feels an urgent need to transfigure it artistically, to impose a strong auctorial mark—the poetic expression of the filmmaker's thesis. The result is a grotesque image of a doomed, infernal, repetitive universe, from which no one escapes alive. Grossu's book is a confession about courage, firmness, suffering, and endurance through faith. It is a simple story with a linear narrative, where emotion is partially concealed by the sequence of events. The filmmaker's task may appear to be easy (since the structure of plot and characters are already there), but in fact it is very subtle and extremely complicated: it consists of artistically representing the transfigurative movement of the main character from a common state of conscience (as described by the young militant woman) to that of Christian acceptance of martyrdom. This spiritual dimension extends the text beyond the closed frame of the memoir and the historical chronicle.
The mystery of martyrdom is an extremely rare theme in cinema, infinitely rarer than renditions of various kinds of political revenge. Therefore, the filmmaker's discretion in treating the intimate aspects of the inner experience of the main character runs the risk of being perceived as schematic and austere.
Each of the filmmakers successfully transcends the limitations of a journalistic reportage of their sources. Pintilie descends into the Hell of the torture chamber, but he never represents torture scenes; he just evokes the nonsense of cruelty by describing the psychotic universe of the torturer, who cannot make penance. Using the stylistics of the theatre of cruelty and the theatre of the absurd, he enlarges Hell by endowing it with his trademark demiurgic voluptuousness. By presenting evil in paradisiacal colors and compromising purity, Pintilie creates a “fascinating Hell,” semantically extended to a socio-political and existential parable, with no answers or moral solutions. Indeed, Surrealism and its theatrical derivations offer the most suitable language for sustaining such an approach. But how to speak about sacrifice and spiritual elevation, using the same artistic language? No one would understand nowadays. At the same time, if you speak about Christian sacrifice in terms of the sublime, no one would believe! That's why Margineanu gives priority to reality and psychological realism in describing the experience of his character.
As much as Pintilie “fumbles” with the mind of the audience, “electrocutes” the public, as he likes to say (240), Margineanu invites viewers to meditate on the revival of the past, on social cohesion and forgiveness, and embarks on his journey from the Inferno of communist concentration camps, but small step by small step he ascends towards Paradise. Making use of a more discrete and traditional artistic palette, avoiding excessive cruelty and violence (even though his subject matter offers many opportunities), Margineanu takes the audience on a memorial journey of suffering and forgiveness, leading it to the gates of Christian spiritual transfiguration (metanoia).

The Prosecution Desk

The Afternoon of a Torturer —not unlike Too Late, The Oak (Balanta, 1992), or Next Stop Paradise (Terminus paradis, 1998)— raises an accusatory voice against post-December 1989 Romanian socio-political reality, desperately seeking a change of mentality, a confession of collective guilt, and a break with the communist past. All four of the mentioned films could be viewed as parables. More precisely, by following a more or less complicated narrative line, featuring a group of referential characters—a kind of "Romanian reality concentrate" (according to Pintilie's vision)—all of these films gravitate around a symbolic topos: the underground tunnels of the sub-man (Unter-Mensch) in Too Late or the space around the oak in the film of the same title become, through a sarcastic semantic inversion, the “ tree of the evil” in The Afternoon of a Torturer . The symbolic topos, an inexorable “bird of ill omen,” attracts both the narrative and the characters, forcing them to escape from their quasi-journalistic origins in order to break out into the domain of political parable. Pintilie's political meditation hides a bitter existential meditation. For him, man is a zoon politikon , and the civic evil is, by its essence, incurable. From this follows the fundamentally tragic dimension of his films, even if the tragedy is always hidden by derision.
A Sisyphean, aimless, cyclical movement—which, behind its terrible calmness, conceals the impossibility for self-improvement—is essential for the infernal. It can be concealed behind a carnival masquerade, but it still remains “a carnival of damnation.” No narrative digressions or quid pro quo s ease the spectator, obliged to contemplate the ferociously quiet fixity of a concentration camp improvised on a patch of the Baragan plain.[6] In a confession to the journal Secolul 21 , Pintilie stated that he “wanted to electrocute” the spectator's “flaccid, Romanian conscience” (240). And he succeeds by forcefully and originally exploiting the terms of the dramaturgy of the absurd, which turns his film into “a black masterpiece.” The fixity of the mise en scène, the lack of any moral solution (which could be provided only by penitence and expiation), the omnipotence of evil, the degradation of the main character and the moral slighting of the others who are reduced to simple marionettes—all of this cumulatively creates the effect of an electric shock. The filmmaker intends—and succeeds—in physically depicting the state of society's moral deprivation.
From an aesthetic point of view, Pintilie's solution is simple and efficient: evil is rendered in bright heavenly colors , while at the same time kindness is ridiculed (which is its axiological disqualification) , innocence is blamed, and vice exonerated. This procedure has been frequently used by Surrealists, albeit never with such a conscious focus on the anticipated effect as in Pintilie's films. The filmmaker has declared that he “desperately loves Romania.” [7] But upon returning from political psychiatry to normality, we are compelled to admit that electroshock therapy (individual or collective) has never cured anyone: not bodies, not souls, not consciences.

The Pulpit of Benediction

To understand the sense of suffering — that is the proposition of Nicolae Margineanu film, in opposition to other testimonies of communist camp imprisonment, which may look more terrible but are based only on knowledge and not on experience. The filmmaker is interested in the possibilities of moral survival and spiritual improvement in the environment of utter human degradation found in communist prisons. While Pintilie tests the limits of bestiality and submerges into the mud of psychopathology, Margineanu slowly climbs the Christian slopes of love for the enemy. Such an ascent may seem like a descent, and therefore it presupposes the withdrawal of an auctorial ego: the director's humility before sacrifice will be reflected in the cinematic poetics.
Pintilie works in anger, magnificently catching the scents of abomination and malignity, and forcing himself and the spectator to stare at them. Driven into a corner, humanness seeks to escape to the superior dimension offered by aesthetics; however this escape is devoid of ethical bearings and is colored by sarcasm. By contrast, Nicolae Margineanu does not seek electroshocks—instead, he seeks spiritual improvement and elevation; he seeks not with voluptuousness, but with humility; he does not prosecute history, but tries to learn lessons from it; he does not look for anomalies, but for the source of strength to stay normal under abnormal conditions. His way is much more difficult since he aims at a human experience that is impossible to understand without assuming it. “ It is the most difficult trial I have ever had as a filmmaker ” (8)—declares the author. To evoke the suffering of thousands of people is no longer an artistic problem; it is an ethical act. The filmmaker and his team understood this and approached the making of the film almost religiously. “ We started the first shooting day at Jilava [8] with a religious ceremony of commemoration for all the people that had died here “—states the filmmaker (8). This is how the miracle begins. Spiritual elation did not vanish during the process of shooting; it increased. As one actress has declared, [9] it was reciprocated by the inner awakening of one and all: learning of the experience of the Cross, the actors wanted to partake even for a day in the suffering of those who had been tormented in the camp. Another dimension of acting was opening for them.
Nicolae Margineanu approaches the theme of suffering with a sense of responsibility: for him, art is neither a spasmodic unwinding, nor an essentially demiurgic and egocentric gesture, but a kenosis, a diminishing of one's personality before the mystery of thy neighbor. Margineanu does not “initiate” his public by keeping himself outside, but participates in the mystery; he ventures into the prison experience side by side with the actors. He confessed that in front of the suffering-saturated Jilava walls, he felt like a simple interpreter (8). He does not operate semantic permutations but tries to decipher existing meanings; he does not engage in artistic alchemy because he respects the chemistry of reality. Margineanu avoids metaphoric—as well as naturalistic—excesses in order to create a realistic, synthetic artistic language that is based on the psychological observation of human relations. The filmmaker's voice often steps back to let in the word of the writer. Thus, the film gains the precious authenticity of the chronicle without losing the potential for fictional generalisation.
The actors' professionalism, from Maria Ploae (the actress in the principal role of Nicole) to the extras, is at its best. Re-enacting life in captivity was not a game, but a real gesture of accepting the suffering of others. The theatrical performance, included in the film, does not rely on “interpretation” but on revival. Martyrdom cannot be “interpreted”: it can only be revived and, therefore, can so rarely be found on screen.
Elena Dulgheru, Film critic, Adevarul literar si artistic, Bucharest 

The Afternoon of a Torturer, Romania and France, 2001
Color, 80 minutes
Director: Lucian Pintilie
Scriptwriter: Lucian Pintilie, based on a novel by Doina Jela
Cinematography: Călin Ghibu.
Editing: Ni ţă Chivulescu.
Cast: Gheorghe Dinic ă , Radu Beligan, Ioana Macaria, Coca Bloos, Dorina Chiriac
Producer: Yvon Crenn.
Production: Filmex and YMC Productions
Bless You, Prison, Romania, 2002
Color, 87 minutes
Director: Nicolae Mărgineanu.
Scriptwriters: Nicolae Mărgineanu, Cătălin Cocriş, and Tudor Voican; based on a novel by Nicole Valery – Grossu
Cinematography: Doru Mitran
Art Director: Ioana Albaiu.
Music: Petru Mărgineanu.
Cast: Maria Ploae, Dorina Lazăr, Ecaterina Nazare, Victoria Cociaş, Iulia Lazăr, Romaniţa Ionescu, Maria Rotaru

Nicolae Mărgineanu (born 1938):
2007 The Fiancées of America (Logodnicii din America)
2002 Bless You, Prison (Binecuvântat ă fii, închisoare) - Jury Award for Best Artistic Contribution and Special Mention of Ecumenical Jury OCIC, Montreal; Silver Knight Prize at IFF Irkutsk, Russia.
1999 The Famous Paparazzo (Faimosul paparazzo)
1996 Auroch's Head (Capul de zimbru) (TV film) - The Professional Romanian Television's Prize (APTR) for directing, 1997
1993 Look Ahead with Anger (Priveşte înainte cu mânie) - Grand Prize at Mostra Internationale Del Nuovo Cinema, Pesaro, Italy; The Silver Delphine Award and FIPRESCI Diploma at Troia IFF, Portugal; The OCIC Diploma at Amiens IFF, France; Best Photography at the Skoplie IFF, Macedonia.
1991 Somewhere in the East (Undeva în Est)
1989 A Clod Of Clay (Un bulgăre de hum ă)
1988 Flames over Treasures (Flăcări pe comori) - Best Directing at the Costinesti National Film Festival, Romania
1987 The Forest Maiden (Pădureanca) - Best Director at the Costinesti National Film Festival, Romania
1983 Return from Hell (Întoarcerea din iad) - Honorary Diploma at the Moscow IFF; Grand Prize at Costinesti Film Festival, Romania
1981 Ştefan Luchian - Romanian Filmmakers' Association Prise for Best Debut
1979 The Man in the Overcoat (Un om în loden)
1978 This Above All (Mai presus de orice)
Lucian Pintilie (born 1933):
2005 Tertium non datur (short)
2003 Niki and Flo (Niki Ardelean, colonel în rezerv ă)
2001 The Afternoon of a Torturer (Dup ă -amiaza unui torţionar)
1998 Next Stop Paradise (Terminus paradis) - Special Jury Prize at Venice IFF; Romanian Filmmakers' Union Award for Best Director and Best Screenplay
1996 Too Late (Prea târziu)
1996 Lumière and Company (Lumière et compagnie)
1993 An Unforgettable Summer (Ovar ă de neuitat)
1991 The Oak (Balan ţ a) - European Film Award for Maia Morgenstern, 1993
1981 Why Are the Bells Ringing, Mitica? (De ce trag clopotele, Mitic ă?) - (forbidden by the censors and released 10 years later)
1979 Paviljon VI (Salonul nr. 6) (TV film)
1969 Reconstruction (Reconstituirea)
1965 Sunday at Six (Duminică la ora 6)

Works Cited
Margineanu, Nicolae. “Binecuvântata fii, închisoare.” Cugetarea europeana / La penseé européene (bilingual journal) 4 (2003).
Pintilie, Lucian. “După-amiaza unui tortionar. Câteva idei fixe dupa terminarea filmarilor.” Secolul 21 10-12 (2001).

1] Stefan Luchian is a representative painter of the beginning of the 20th century. He creatively adapted elements of French impressionism to Romanian realist painting, thus contributing, together with Nicolae Grigorescu and Ion Andreescu, to the creation of a national Romanian style.
2] Ion Creanga, teacher and priest, is one of the most popular Romanian story-tellers and writers from the second half of 20th century. He evoked the vivid world of childhood and the rural universe in colorful memorialistic stories and folk-tales with Rabelaisian accents.
3] Mihai Eminescu was Romantic poet, dramatist, journalist, and writer of the second half of the 20th century. He contributed to the formation of modern Romanian language and thought and is almost unanimously considered to be a symbolic figure of Romanian spirituality.
4] Vasile Voiculescu (1884-1963) was a Romanian physician, poet, prose writer, and dramatist. He was a member of the literary circle around the Gândirea Revue and of the mystical movement “The Burning Bush” at the Bucharest Saint Antim Monastery. He was imprisoned by the communists, together with most of the members of the movement.
5] A well-known governing Romanian political party, founded by Iuliu Maniu in 1926 and dissolved by the communist government after 1945. Almost all of its members, who failed to emigrate or officially to change their political views, were imprisoned.
6] A large plain in the southern part of Romania, one of the areas used for the deportation of political prisoners during the Stalinist period. In the film, it is where the ex-torturer lives.
7] Part of his public speech at the Studio theatre (Bucharest) with the occasion of the film's release in Romania, May 2001.
8] Part of the film was shot in the actual places where the action of the novel takes place. Jilava (near Bucharest) is one of the famous jails of the communist period.
9] At the press conference marking the release of the film at the Studio theatre (Bucharest), 2002. The same idea is repeated in Margineanu.

Jun 27, 2016

”With the Magic Carpet to Armenia”

A nice surprise! My report about my 2015 journey to Armenia and ”Golden Apricot” Film Festival, originally published in Ziarul Lumina / November 7, 2015, (entitled ”Cu covorul fermecat prin Armenia” /”Ce vânt te aduce la noi?”) has been translated into Armenian and published in the Armenian newspaper AZG Daily/23.06.2016.
I express my gratitude to the two translators, Andrei Paslariu and Artsvi Bakhchinyan.

http://azg .am/AM/culture/2016062403

Here is the full text:
ԱԶԳ ՕՐԱԹԵՐԹ - ՄՇԱԿՈՒՅԹ #24, 2016-06-24


«Լումինա» («Լույս»), Բուխարեստ, 2015, նոյեմբեր 7
Ներկայացվող հոդվածի հեղինակը ռումինուհի կինոգետ Ելենա Դուլգերուն է, որ 2015-ին մասնակցեց «Ոսկե ծիրան» կինոփառատոնին որպես ՖԻՊՐԵՍՍԻ ժյուրիի անդամ:
Հոդվածը հայերեն է թարգմանել երիտասարդ ռումինացի Անդրեյ Պասլարիուն: Մոր կողմից լինելով հայազգիՙ նա ինքնուրույն սովորել է հայերեն: Հայաստանում առայժմ չի եղել: Կրթությամբ ճարտարապետՙ նա ժամանակ առ ժամանակ զբաղվում է ռումիներենից հայերեն թարգմանություններովՙ չմոռանալու համար լեզուն: Հրատարակում ենքՙ իր հրաշալի մտքերի, պատկերների համար, մանավանդՙ սիրո համար, մանավանդ որ «Ոսկե ծիրանը» հեռու չէ, թեեւ... սակավ է ծիրանը:
«Քեզ ի՞նչը բերեց մեզ մոտ...»
Հայաստան, Երեւան, «Ոսկե ծիրան»: Ինձ դիմավորեցին ծիրանով լի մեծ զամբյուղներով: Հուլիս է, ծիրանի ամիսը, երբ ծիրանը լցվում է բոլոր շուկաները եւ ավանդաբար օրհնվում եկեղեցում: Ծիրանը, որի անունը կրող կինոփառատոնի շնորհիվ ես եկել եմ Հայաստան: Ծիրանը (ազգային խորհրդանիշ) մեծ զամբյուղների մեջ ներխուժել է փառատոնի բացման հանդիսավոր արարողության բեմը, կինոսրահների միջանցքները, մամլո գրասենյակը: Անգամ կարմիր գորգը լի է այդ պտուղներով լի զամբյուղներով: Մանր «ցանկության ծառերը»ՙ ոսկե ծիրաններով, ամեն ցերեկ ու ամեն իրիկուն գտնվում են բանկետի սեղանների վրա, թափվածՙ ինչպես Առատության եղջյուրից, որպես ապացույց հայկական հյուրընկալության: Փառատոնի մրցանակակիրները կստանան արձանիկներ, դիպլոմներ ու, իհարկե, զամբյուղներՙ սաթագույն ծիրաններով: Բավական են բոլորի համար: Գնում ենք հյուրանոցի սենյակներըՙ մեր գրպանները ծիրաններով լիքը: Կիսաթափանցիկ, դեղին, ծիածանաքարի, ակացիայի, մեղրի գույնով:
Մարդիկ հարցնում են ինձՙ «Քեզ ի՞նչը բերեց մեզ մոտ...»: Արդյոք իտալացիները հարցնո՞ւմ ենՙ ի՞նչ ես որոնում Հռոմում: Կամ ֆրանսիացիներըՙ ի՞նչ ես որոնում Ֆրանսիայում: Անգլիացինե՞րը... շվեդնե՞րը... ամերիկացինե՞րը... Սակայն հասնելու համար Հայաստան (ինչպես նաեւՙ Ռումինիա, Վրաստան, Ղազախստան), հարկավոր է մի հիմնավոր պատճառ: Մի նպատակ, մի պատահականությունՙ միայն քեզ: Որովհետեւ ոչ բոլոր հողմերն են փչում այստեղ:
Ի՞նչը բերեց ինձ Հայաստան: Պատասխանում եմՙ Փարաջանովը: Հավատո՞ւմ են ինձ: Այո՛, ինձ հավատում ու հասկանում են: Ամենքը ճանաչում են Փարաջանովին այստեղ (ինչպես եւ նրա ծննդավայր Վրաստանում): Ես ինձ զգում եմ տանը: Ինչպես զգում էի Վրաստանում (Սաքարթվելո-Իբերիա-Կողքիս-Քարթլիում):
Այն, որ մեզ համար Արմենիա է, հայերի համար Հայաստան էՙ Հայկի երկիր, որը Նոյի հետնորդն էր: Վրացիները նույնպես Նոյի հետեւորդներ են: Քարթլին Քարթլոսի երկիրն է, որը Թորգոմի որդին էր, որդին Գամերի, որդին Հաբեթի, երրորդ որդին Նոյի: Այս անուները գտնվում են Գիրք Ծննդոցի մեջ, սակայն նաեւՙ կովկասյան հին գրությունների մեջ, սերնդեսերունդ փոխանցված:
Ազգի ծագումնաբանական ծառն առկա է թանգարաններում, դպրոցներում ու եկեղեցիներում, այնպես որ դա բոլորը գիտեն: Լեզվից ու այբուբենից բացիՙ սա ազգային «պատկերներից» մեկն է: Եվ հայերի համար ազգային ինքնության պատկերները շատ են ու այնքան կենդանի:
Մենք բոլորս ենք Նոյի հետնորդներ, բայց քիչ ազգեր են այս հիշատակը պահել անձեռնմխելի: Քիչ ազգեր գիտեն իրենց նախահայրերի անուններըՙ սկսած սկզբից: Լինելով հիշողություն ունեցող ազգՙ հայերն իրենց նախնիներին ճանաչում ու մեծարում են նաեւ այսօր: Նրանց գրականությունը հազարամյա է: Այբուբենի հիմնադիրների անուններով պողոտաներ են կոչվում ու հավերժացվում զարմանալի գեղեցիկ ու վեհ արձաններով:
Արեւելքի Դարպասները
Չգիտեմ, եթե կա մի ուրիշ քաղաք ճարտարապետական ու քանդակագործական այնպիսի քարի հանճարով, ինչպիսին Երեւանն է: Կարծես թե երեւելի անձանց արձանները ողջունում են քեզ ամեն մի փողոցումՙ արժանապատվության, իմաստության, վեհության, քաջության կամ կատակասեր արտահայտություններով, ինչպես հին իմաստունների խորհրդի միջից, դուրս եկած ազգային գրությունների բազալտից: Կարծեմ թե հեռու անցյալի ու ներկայի միջեւ այս ներդաշնակությունը միայն հայերը կարող են ստեղծել: Սառը հեգնանքի ոչ մի հետք չկա ազգային պատմության հանդեպ, ինչն առկա է Ռումինիայի վերջին կես դարի մշակույթի մեջ: Եվ այս հրաշալի արձանները, որ լցնում են հայկական քաղաքները, անգամ գյուղերը, կերտել են բազմաթիվ տեղական քանդակագործներն ու ճարտարապետները խորհրդային հետպատերազմյան տարիներին կամ 1990 թվականից հետո, երբ Հայաստանը թափ էր տալիս ողջ սնանկացած արդյունաբերությունը: Երվանդ Քոչար, Արա Հարությունյան, Արա Սարգսյան, Ղուկաս Չուբարյանՙ ահա հայտնի քանդակագործների մի շարք, հեղինակներն այն ստեղծագործությունների, որ հազար թեմանով կապված են այս ազգի պատմության, ոգու եւ ավանդույթի հետ: Որտեղի՞ց են միջոցներ գտնվում խիստ գեղազարդ քաղաքաշինական ներդրումների համարՙ այս անվերջանալի տնտեսական ճգնաժամում, երկարատեւ պատերազմի մեջ ու ավերիչ երկրաշարժից հետո: Թվում է, թե հայերը նոր ուժ են գտնում մոխրի մեջ, ինչպես Փյունիկը: Զարմանալի է, թե ինչպես մի երկիր, որը դարեր շարունակ չուներ անկախություն, դեռ ուժ է գտնում վերածնվելու ու մշակույթ ստեղծելուՙ հիմնված գեղեցկության, ազնվականության եւ վսեմի վրա: Մի երկիր, որը դրսից թվում է իր անցյալի մեջ քարացածՙ իր հազարամյա եկեղեցիների պես, շատ երկար ժամանակ լքված, բայց այժմՙ վերածնված անհասկանալի մի ուժով, որ կարող է բխել միայն Աստծո հանդեպ հավատիցՙ Խաչի գաղտնիքում պարփակված: Գաղտնիքն այս հազարամյա քարերիՙ խաչքարերի, որ այս երկրի քարագործներն ու վանականները միշտ են իմացելՙ անդրադառնալով ծաղիկներին ու աստղերին, արաբանախշերին ու երկնային ծառերին, երկնքի թռչուններինՙ կարծես թե քարը ամբողջովին ենթարկել տալով իրենց ձեռքերին: Միայն Խաչըՙ ապրած ու սիրված, կարող է ծնել այնքան հրաշքներՙ տանջանքը փոխարկելով մի կատարյալ հայելուՙ այս ազգի ճակատագրի համար:
Փնտրելով նախասկզբնական մարդուն
Մենք Արեւելքի դարպասների մոտ ենք: Ավելի սուբյեկտիվ, քան աշխարհագրական, հրաշքի դարպասներՙ գայթակղիչ ու սահուն: Իսկական մարտահրավեր է դրանք լուսանկարչական խցիկով ու հատկապես խոսքերի մեջ որսալը: Խոսքերի մեջ, որ միշտ պակաս հասկանալի են: Խոսքերի մեջ, որ դեռ պահպանվում են միայն հեքիաթներում ու լեգենդներում... ու մարդկանց մեջՙ ծնված այս լեգենդներում: Շատ երկրներ ու ծովեր տեսա եւ շատ երկար սպասեցիՙ դրանք ճանաչելու համար: Ու հիմա նրանք ինձ դիմավորում են իրենց լեգենդներով, որի ճշմարտությունը շատ պարզ է իրենց արարքներում: Դրանք հասկանալը դժվար չէ: Դժվար չէ դրանց խոսքերի իմաստը հասկանալը. երկար լռությունն ու սպասումը սրել են իմ լսողությունը:
Ինչպես Ալիսինՙ Հրաշքների աշխարհում, ինձ էլ հարցնում են. «Քեզ ի՞նչը բերեց մեզ մոտ...»: Ի՞նչ է որոնում այստեղ այս չվող թռչունըՙ եկած մի երկրից, որը միայն երկու հազար տարեկան է: Ի՞նչ է որոնում մի ռումինացիՙ քաջերի երկրում, որը վախեցրել է հռոմեացիներին ու բյուզանդացիներին: Ի՞նչ է որոնում քանդակագործների, գրիչների, բանաստեղծների ու ճարտարապետների երկրում, որը Եվրոպայի ու Արեւելքի քմահաճ ու սնափառ սրտերն է գրավել: Այս երկրում, որին այսօր սահմանված է մի փոքր անկյունՙ հին կայսրությունից եւ որը ցինիկների համար նշանակում է միայն «Ռադիո Երեւան»:
Ի՞նչ է որոնում մի ռումինացի Երեւանում: Փարաջանովի՞ն... Իհարկե... սակայն նաեւՙ հին մարդուն, համաշխարհայնացմանը չենթարկվածին: Եկել եմ մեծ դյուցազներգությունների էջերի համար, որոնք Փարաջանովը դրեց իմ դեմ, այստեղՙ Աստծո ու Նոյ նահապետի միջեւ Նոր ուխտի հողի վրա: Ուխտ, որ արված է ավելի 5000 տարի առաջ, Արարատի թաց հողի վրա: Օրհնյալ լեռ, ընդամենը մի քանի հարյուր կիլոմետր հարավ իր զույգիցՙ մշուշոտ Էլբրուսից: Մեծ Կովկասն ու Փոքր Կովկասըՙ տանջանքի ու ապստամբության լեռները, վճիտ ջրի եւ օրհնության լեռները, այնքան մոտիկ են իրար... Հին անեծքը ու Նոր ուխտը, մարդու կռիվն ու հաշտեցումը Աստծո հետ: Երկու լեռ, Սեւ ու Կասպից ծովերի միջեւ, կարծես համադրել են ամբողջ մարդկության ճակատագիրը:
Հիշողության հինավուրց երկիր, աշխարհի առաջին ու վերջին լեգենդների երկիր (մի վրացական մարգարեության համաձայնՙ Ահեղ Դատաստանը Մցխեթի մեջ պիտի լինի), Կովկասը խոր շնչի մի տեղ է, ուր մարգարեությունները պահպանվում են մինչեւ այսօր, որովհետեւ «հին, չհամաշխարհայնացված մարդու» գեները ողջ են ու շարունակում են ներշնչել: Իզուր չէ, որ Կենսատու Սյան տաճարն այստեղ է: Այստեղ, որտեղ ծագումի հիշողությունը ողջ է ու շարունակում է ձեւավորել իդեալներ ու ճակատագրեր: Ու ես հարց տվի ինձ ՙ «Ինչպե՞ս»:
Ռումիներենից թարգմանեց ԱՆԴՐԵՅ ՊԱՍԼԱՐԻՈՒՆ


The PDF version of the newspaper, readable on-line: https://issuu.com/98595/docs/2016024_culture/3?e=4254015/36746132

Oct 13, 2015

Paraskeva and Sidonia: two candles on the same patch of sky

What resemblance is between Saint Sidonia from Mtskheta (Georgia) and Saint Paraskeva from Iasi (Romania), two pious virgins celebrated on the same day, October 14? Two holly brides: one was giving her rich clothes to the poor, thus bestowing them to Christ, the other received from Christ the most precious garment - His shirt, brought to Mtskheta by her brother, rabbi Eleazar -, which served to her as well as a burial and a wedding cloth. What is the link between the column of light seen in the fourth century over  Sidonia's tomb, after cutting the secular cedar that had risen from her grave, over which the famous Svetitskhoveli cathedral was build, and the mantle of light with which Paraskevi was seen protecting Iassi - as survivors remember - during the WW2 bombings? What binds together the two equally discrete virgins, both equally rushed passing the threshold of earthly life, but equally spectacular in their heavenly destiny, whose glory is ceaselessly growing and will continue to grow? The relics of one have wandered across the whole Balkan Eastern Christendom (from Epivat to Trnovo, Belgrade, Constantinople and Iasi), of the other were sealed until the end of time under the slabs of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, to expect there the bridal coming of Christ on earth, Parusia. Two columns of light, two maidens clothed in Christ, united by the same great love.

Oct 7, 2015

”An Erotics of the Book” - Elena Dulgheru's graphics exhibition in Tinos (Greece)

Held in the frames of the International Writers' Congress in Tinos (Cyclades, Greece), September 17-23, 2015.
Official opening on September 19, 19.30, Tinion Hall. The exhibition was presented by the art historian and film theorist Prof. Dmitri Salynski and by the author.

Founding word
More than we can imagine, books determine our existence. Even when we stop reading them. They determine our existence, the existence of our neighbors, of our descendants, the existence of history. 
Essentially, books are an expression of love. Like utterance, even more than utterance. An expression of love, made to last even after love extinguishes or conceals.
That's how books give birth to memory, memory which is always able to reconvert into love. True books are seeds of this love: Logos spermatikos. From the sacred books of the Scripture, inscribed by the seed of the Divine Word, to the founding books of the peoples, with their songs of mourning and joy, recorded into the collective memory, and afterwards in more recent books, and up to the love letters of lovers, who are also participating, by their gestures of love and childbirth, to the construction of history; who are also writers, by the love deeds, of the great Book of Life.
This exhibition gravitates around the Book of Life, in a broad sense, as a mystery of writing and living within the Word. From the Christian sense of the great book of Salvation, to the Borgesian sense of the books that are keeping the memory of the world, and up to the apparently anodyne meanings of "the books of our personal lives", that we are also trying to inscribe, as far as we concent about eternity, into the great Book of Redemption.
The Supreme writer, He who founded the Book of Life and is always refreshes it, can not be represented through images. But the loving gesture of the divine writing into our lives is discovered in every love story that had become a legend, in each new writing and transmitting of the words of wisdom, of the revealed and revealing word. Snapshots of these acts of writing, made in solitude or in synergetic couples - as unwitnessed hierogamies - snapshots of sacred or legendary love stories and converted to other acts of writing, have been recorded by the drawings of this exhibition.
An important role in transmitting formative texts have always had minstrels; in ancient languages, their names were synonymous with that of lover or pilgrim. A journey from one story to another, endless as the Book of Life, are the "1001 Nights", one of the themes of this exhibition. Therefore, in the East, the paradigmatic model of the narrator is a woman: Scheherazade. A female-healer, redeeming the curse of her gender, but also the Sultan of his killing anger, Scheherazade brings the taming through storytelling, without abandoning her beauty and feminine charisma. An Athens of the East, her image consistently and reverberating marks the exhibition.
Europe is also an outgrowth of writing. Of the interweaving of Aryan, Semitic and Christian destinies, developed in a multimillenary story, written by man and God, that we would like to be endless. A story, whose sunset we have been warned long ago and today we fear more than ever.
This exhibition is also dedicated to Europe, to Christian, blessed by God Europe, that we do not want to lose. In the same way as to Scheherazade, with her "1001 Nights" and her weddings, which is are nothing but a mythical image of the great Book of Life and of man with God transfiguring wedding.

Elena Dulgheru

List of works
  1. Woman singing under a bell
  2. Woman playing a keyboard instrument
  3. Writing woman (the first letters)
  4. Writing woman dressed into a snail
  5. Writing woman
  6. Woman writing a newspaper page
  7. Text - writing
  8. A hand like the pen of a ready writer
  9. A theme ot the book - I
  10. Book being writtten
  11. Semito-European Psaltery
  12. Autumn letter
  13. Cooking book
  14. European book
  15. A theme of the book - II
  16. A theme of the book - II
  17. 1001 Nights - I
  18. 1001 Nights - II
  19. 1001 Nights - III
  20. Alice in the library
  21. Scheherazade asleep
  22. A theme of writing - Scheherazade
  23. A theme of story-telling - Scheherazade
  24. A primordial book - I
  25. A primordial book - II
  26. Erotics - a page from the Book of the Books - I
  27. Erotics - a page from the Book of the Books - II
  28. Erotics - a page from the Book of the Books - III
  29. The grass
  30. L' érotique des livres
  31. An erotics of the book
  32. Genesis book - I
  33. Genesis book - II

Aug 5, 2015

The "Golden Apricot" and its Gifts

Report from the 12th ”Golden Apricot” International Film Festival, Yerevan, July 12-19 2015, published on the FIPRESCI official site

The most important film event of the Caucasian region, the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival has become, from year to year, not only a centre of Armenian cinema, but also a meeting place for the cinema markets of the Eurasian countries from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Sharing a similar recent history, these film industries, even though they have different identities, have a number of common approaches both to the art of cinema and to major values of humankind. Some common human typologies and common ideals seem to be founded in their past.
In front of ”Moskva” Cinema Hall, the centre of the Festival
The selection proposed by the organizers of the 12th edition of the Golden Apricot for consideration by the FIPRESCI and Ecumenical juries was composed mostly of films belonging to the non-competitive programme "Films Across Borders" (seven films), from the International Competition (two films) and from the "Armenian Panorama" (one film). Although they belonged to different sections, all ten films reveal aspects of a common sensitivity and vision of the world, and together they somehow complete the puzzle of a unique picture, specific to the spirit of the Golden Apricot.
Films dealing with actual social problems typical of the countries they come from, such as Ben Zaken, Corn Island (Simindis kundzuli) and Line of Credit (Kreditis limiti), films reconsidering the recent historical past, such as Moskvich, My Love ("Moskvich", im ser), Pioneer Heroes (Pionery-geroi) and Snow Pirates (Kar korsanlari), but also films treating such eternal themes as childhood and friendship (Sivas), the struggle for inner maturation in a patriarchal world (40 Days of Silence (Chilla)), the confrontation between city and countryside (The Move (Pereezd)) and that between teacher and pupil, portrayed as a dangerous and destructive love story (The Clinch (Klinch)), form a collective, multinational cinematic portrait whose common ideals are the search for beauty and harmony and the belief in authentic human values, which secular civilization is about to totally lose.
The way they are approaching and treating these themes determines the value of the movies. And even with the limited selection we were invited to evaluate there were quite a few good films that deserve to be recognised by juries and to be seen by a larger public.
Reception at Echimiadzin. In foreground: Harutyun Khachatryan, general director of the festival, ans His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians
The most engrossing films that found favour with all members of the international film critics jury, but in the end did not get the prize, were Sivas, Snow Pirates and Corn Island. The first two, whose action takes place in the provinces of Turkey, explore with tenderness the universe of childhood, a universe based on friendship and the struggle for survival at a time of deep economic crisis (Snow Pirates) and on the relationship between children and animals (Sivas). Similarly, the struggle for survival of peasants in the turbulent period of the Georgian-Abkhazian war is the theme of the multi-international production directed by George Ovashvili, Corn Island, which had previously received a FIPRESCI Prize and a lot of other important awards.
The nostalgia for the former Soviet Union, or, more precisely, the desolate and tragicomical lament of the citizens of a no longer existing empire where each one knew his place in society, is the common theme of the films Pioneers Heroes and Moskvich, My Love. This latter polyphonic social and human panorama, masterfully staged, makes Aram Shahbazyan's film one of the discoveries of the festival.
A Russian theme also resonates in the directing debut of the prominent actor Sergei Puskepalis, The Clinch. The film reveals the extreme polarization of Russian society between the rebellious criminal youth and the middle-aged intelligentsia, in other words between the so-called "New Russians" and "homo sovieticus" – two different kinds of misfits; the school, which reunites them formally, cannot overcome the huge gap between them, leading to tragicomical confrontations. The film starts on a solid basis, but gradually dissolves into an overloaded and poorly controlled narrative.
Another social theme of failed adaptation is reflected in the excellent Israeli film Ben Zaken, directed by Efrat Corem, an almost minimalist family drama about the incapacity for love and tolerance of people with broken lives that had been subject to the loss of a member of their families; without resorting to political or ideological commentary, the film discreetly reveals the long-term and painful consequences of the Israeli war.
The Georgian multiple co-production Line of Credit, directed by Salome Alexi, another feature film debutante, also deals with a dramatic social topic. In a kind of social report, the film explores the story of a woman who loses the ancestral house of her family as a result of a vicious circle of credit debts she incurs while trying to survive the economical transition of her country.
The remaining two films, The Move and 40 Days of Silence, transport us into the contemplative universe of Central Asia, with its breath-taking mountainous landscapes and eternal stillness. Both filmmakers, Marat Sarulu and Saodat Ismailova, lead us into introspective worlds in which humans come to know themselves and strengthen their characters by descending into speechlessness and meditation, and in the latter case into a vow of silence.

Oct 10, 2014

Tarkovsky's "Sacrifice" and the Misteries of da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi - in Portuguese, Russian and English

The study, which is a fragment of the book Tarkovsky. Film as a Prayer, IV-the edition (2014), can be read in Portuguese, Russian and English versions (pp. 35,  59, and 68 respectively), in the Brazil on-line cinema magazine Kinoruss, nr. 5/2014 (Sao Paulo).
The translation into Portuguese was made by  Camila Cavalcante, to whom I express my gratitude, and in Russian and English, by the author (Elena Dulgheru). 
The magazine can be read only on-line (also from here), and the texts can be accessed exclusively page by page.

Aug 2, 2013

Marian Rădulescu comments Elena Dulgheru's book "Tarkovsky. Film as a Prayer"

From the blog The One-Line Review Presents
Posted on May 11, 2009
The substantial book by Elena Dulgheru (Andrei Tarkovski - Filmul ca rugăciune) has a whole chapter dedicated to the way the Russian film director approaches the recurrent theme of hominess. The chapter is called „The Taboric space of the home”. The main theme in Stalker is the epiphany of experiencing the Sacredness. Yet, this is no easy task – even more so in our multicultural age - to speak about the Sacredness, about its topography and about „the place where man meets God” (Which God? Which meeting?).

In the Christian tradition, according to the Gospel, The Mount Tabor represents, doesn’t it, the place where Christ has revealed himself to his Apostles (Peter, James and John) as well as to the Just of the „Old Covenant” (Moses and Elijah) – the presence of the latter ones signifying the continuity between the two "paradigms". The above mentioned episode is also called Transfiguration – the place where man feels like shouting (as in Goethe’s Faust: "Verweille doch! Du bist so schön!" / "I say to the moment: Stay now! You are so beautiful!". At that very moment, frightened and speechless, Peter will have said to Jesus: „Let us build three huts; one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” while Jesus, according to the Gospel, „was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light”

As Elena Dulgheru points to it, The Stalker himself says something similar on the threshold of the Room (where none of them enters), planning – as he possibly would every time when he got to that point – to move there with his wife and his cripple daughter: “How good it feels to be here! It is so quiet! Nobody can harm us here!” Why particularly there? Because there is one’s true home, where people’s badness is harmless and no one can harm you. Where is people’s badness harmless? Wherever God’s blessing has been laid down, and humility (word that comes from humus = clay, in Latin) has conquered vain glory. But suddenly, the Stalker adds: “No one lives and cannot possibly live in the Zone”. Therefore, the Zone (being understood as a Taboric space) is the very place which man’s impoverished heart has always longed for. It is the place where everything comes true and even wonders happen if you “concentrate and recollect your life”, because “when someone secretly recalls what he has lived through, he becomes a better person.” “Our moods, our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings can bring about change here.” – says the Stalker. All one has to do is wait – as in Waiting for Godot, for example – and obey the complicated system of traps in the Zone, which “demands respect, otherwise it will punish you”. Here is where the circle closes in order to form another one, full of forever new variables and mysteries. For what exactly one should ask for? What exactly one should wait for? Yet, do we still feel like wanting something, anything for that matter? Are we still ready to sacrifice our vain whims? The Writer (as well as The Professor) does not wait for anybody or anything, he does not want anything at all – nobody does – and does not hope for anything. "Nobody has faith anymore, not just these two" – says the Stalker to his wife, once he returns home, exhausted and almost sick. Yet, his bitterness does not prevent him from going back to the same mysterious place, again and again: the Zone, the Tabor, the Grail.

Another paradox: no one has faith any more, nothing has been left but trivial “curiosities” and selfish expectations – The Writer hopes to find his lost inspiration, while The Professor tries to blow up the Room where wishes come true for what will happen “when everyone believes in this famous room? When they all scramble for it? It’s just a question of time! If not today, then tomorrow, and not dozens of them, but thousands! All those uncrowned emperors, grand inquisitors, führers and such benefactors to humanity! Not for money, or for inspiration, but to remodel the world!...”. Still, the Stalker cannot help bringing new “clients” to the Zone, people who’ve got no other hope left. A certain change has happened though – the episode in the bar scene (at the end of their existential odyssey) speaks well in this respect: the Writer is smoking absent-mindedly (as if he was in deep thinking), while the Professor looks confused (as if he, too, was trying to figure out the mystery of this capricious and incomprehensible place, the mystery of this “holy fool” who seems determined to have faith when there is hardly anything left to believe in, when everything seems – like in an absurdist drama – an enormous prison.
Can there be a movie sequence or even a whole movie that will leave – more than others – deep traces in the memory of cinema-goers? Is there such a movie that will stay for ever green? There must be quite a few of them, that’s for sure. One is definitely the SF movie (with or without inverted commas) Stalker by Andrei Tarkovski. Both Tarkovski’s fans (some of them even adore him) and those ones still unfamiliar with (or put off by) his vision can testify to this. To be honest, it is not that easy to like Tarkovski when your mindset has been invaded by clichés and schemes which form the recipe of any blockbuster: action, fun, violence, hope, nudity, sex, happy ending.

Is Stalker a genuine SF movie? It is, but only with due respect to Dostoievsky’s words: „Fiction and reality are one and the same thing. Without reality there is no fiction.” The kind of fiction we find in Stalker is of the same nature with the fiction Nicolae Steinhardt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Steinhardt) uses in his The Happiness Diary: one that „does not delude, does not lead to obscure lands of illusion, and is not a mere change of décor – the fiction of faith. That does not deny reality, but transcends it; that does not have to get out of the yellow room in order to leave it; that is not fiction after all, because it does not entertain the mind with a bunch (a human comedy) of other virtual– yet unessential – worlds, but rather makes it concentrate upon reality; which does not exclude science, but transfigures the world and the individual. ”

So, why be this particular film then? Mainly because nowhere else but in Tarkovski’s works (and arguably in Bergamn’s Nattvardsgästerna / Winter Light, Såsom i en spegel / Through a Glass Darkly, Tystnaden / The Silence or in Bunuel’s Nazarin and Viridiana, in some of Antonioni’s films) – and particularly in Stalker – does modern man’s inability to believe (transfiguring the world) and confess (transfiguring himself) hurt is such proportions. But confession is closely related to faith, and (post)modern man living in the glorious age of general deconstruction has increased his scepticism and believes, like the Writer, that "Conscience, remorse, are merely products of the brain...Who told you there is something going on here? Have you ever seen anybody leaving this place happy?” The whole odyssey towards Tarkovsky's Zone in order to pursue happiness is but a (failed) preparation for the most important moment in a man's life. The moment when he has to say nothing, he has to do nothing but concentrate and remember his own life, for "when one remembers his life, one becomes a better person". Perhaps this is the "clue" to Tarkovsky's charade: once we have reached (together with the Writer and the Professor) the threshold of the Room where, as they say, "the most powerful, tormenting and sincere desire becomes true", the Stalker makes us face the unavoidable question: Who am I? How would I react if a "stalker" (a guide) whom I incessantly suspect of hypocrisy (and whom I had imagined as looking completely different - „leather stockings, an impressive black leather suit, the looks of a dragon”) told me: „You only need to have faith!”? Would I be ready or would I resign, like the Writer does, and whose pride makes him say: “I’ll hardly be a better person if I start remembering my life….And don’t you see how shameful that is? To abase oneself, to grovel, to pray?” Or would I call for extreme measures (like the Professor does, who has prepared – not his soul, but rather a 20 kilotons bombs – in order to blow up “this famous place” for he cannot sleep easy in his bed as long as “this ulcer is open to any scumbag”. The place which “does not bring happiness to anyone” will not be blown up because of the Stalker, the “hypocritical worm” (called by the Writer “simply defective”), who – among bitter tears – tells the Writer and the Professor (but only them?): “Nobody has anything left in this world any more. This is the only place you can come to, if you’ve nothing else to hope for…That’s why you came! So, why are you destroying…faith?”

What exactly is, after all, the Zone (or “the yellow room”, as Steinhardt put it)? Tarkovski provides the answer, in his book, Le temps scellé: „The Zone does not mean anything, at least it does not mean anything more than what one can find in my films. The Zone is the Zone. The Zone is life, and the man who lives it either crushes or saves himself. It’s all up to the way one feels his own dignity and ability in discerning what is essential from what isn’t.” If Tarkovski is right, we do need – more than ever – such a Stalker (a guide) to help us transform into a dream the dirt we have filled our souls with, a guide to help us discern – in this very age of excessive zapping and claiming of all freedoms – what is really essential from what isn’t.

Jul 27, 2013

BIRCHSCAPES - Komm mit Mir in den BirkenWald

In 2008, my friend Elisabeth Ochsenfeld, a Romanian painter living for many years in Germany, was proposing me to write a text about birches, for the catalogue of the collective international exhibition she was preparing in Timisoara. 
The exhibition, entitled Come With Me Into the Birch Forest - MNEMOSYNING, was opened on January 14 and 15, 2011 in Timisoara Art Museum and in Triade Art Gallery from the same city, respectively and was commented by Horia-Roman Patapievici. Its presentation can be found on the blog Birchscapes/Komm mit Mir in den BirkenWald/Come with me into the Birchforest
I recuperate the German version of the text for the catalogue now.
The pictures belong to the artist and are taken from her blog.

Vor ein paar Jahren hat uns Tarkovskis Name zusammengeführt. Eine Weltanschauung, eine Vision über das Schaffen, eine Vision über den Menschen, eine der zeitgenössischen Zivilisation fremde Vertikalität des Geistes aktualisierend. Für viele bleibt Tarkovski eine grosse Wette.

Elisabeth gestand mir, dass sie „etwas“ im Bestrahlungsbereich des Werkes dieses legendären Regisseurs plante. Es war die Zeit der komemorativen Ausstellungen, der grossen Retrospektiven und Monographien. Nichts von deren Gedenk - Stimmung konnte man im kräftigen, persönlich geprägtem Temperament und in der modernen Einstellung der Künstlerin wiederfinden. Ich vermutete also nicht, was es sein würde. Und die Künstler erzählen sehr wenig, sie wollen lieber, dass es nicht offenbart wird.

Die Zeit verging und ich merkte erneut, dass die wahren und wirklich kreativen Annäherungen nicht durch Kopieren oder Verbeugen erfolgen, sondern durch Erkundung und aufeinanderfolgende Umhüllungen in langsamen, konzentrische Spiralen, die zentripetal in Richtung des ursprünglichen Kerns des gesuchten Universums streben.

Elisabeth Ochsenfelds Ansatz ist überhaupt nicht illustrativ. Ihre Ausstellung ist nicht „über“ einen gewissen Regisseur, sie will auch nicht das Kommentar eines bestimmten kreativen Universums sein, sondern, sie versucht eher in ihren Hypostasen, eine bestimmte Befindlichkeit des Geistes zu erfassen. Ein Geisteszustand, eine Anima, ein Teil des tiefen Substrats der slavischen Zivilisation – Teil eines archaischen eurasiatischen Nordens, die ethnischen Grenzen überschreitend,welche wir überrascht, wiedererkennen, getarnt in einige der berühmtesten Kunstwerke der modernen Welt der Künste, in ihrer Öffnung für das Absolute. Eine Dimension des Geistes, metonymisch dargestellt durch einen Symbol – Baum, die Birke, sublimer Ausdruck maximaler Synthese der slavischen und nordeuropäischen Spiritualität. Von Wajdas Birkenwald, durch die neuesten Kreationen des skandinavischen Filmes hindurch, bis zur fast gesamten Filmografie Tarkovskis – damit wir nur die Welt des Films erwähnen – enthüllt die Birke die gleichen hermetischen und sapientialen Tugenden, Dank deren sie in der Folklore bereits berühmt wurde.

Nicht zufällig hat der schlanke Mond – Baum eine ganze Reihe Landschaften – Maler aus der zweiten Hälfte des XIX, Jahrhunderts inspiriert, peredvijniki, von Schischkin und Levitan, bis zu dem Präimpressionisten Arhip I. Kuindji. Alle wollten, in einem gleichen Schwung die nationale Identität durch Kunst definieren, aufgrund der alten folklorischen Quellen, die Topoi und die paradigmatischen Essenzen des russischen Ethnos hervorheben. Und alle malten Birken. Somit, enthüllte sich der Birkenwald als jener sakrale Raum, zu dem alle schöpferischen Phantasien der Künstler hingezogen waren in ihrem (mehr oder weniger programatischen, mehroder weniger bewussten) Ansatz der Identifizierung, auf dem Gebiete des Sichtbaren und des Objektualen, der Emergenz - Matrix der slawischen Seele.

Exponentialer Ausdruck der Reinheit, Zerbrechlichkeit und des Himmlischen, dem stihialen botanischen Areal Bruchstücke von Himmel und Vibration von Paradies einflössend, etabliert sich die Birke als weibliche Fassung des Baumes des Lebens. Der sonnige Birkenwald ist das emblematische Bild des Gartens Gottes. Die heilenden und schützenden Kräfte der Birke (von der nordeuropäischen und nordasiatischen Folklore behalten), sowie auch die Eigenschaft die Seelen der Toten zu erlösen (die von verschiedenen Formen der mündlichen Literatur bezeugt wird), entspringen aus seiner paradiesischen Abstammung. Die Vibrationen des Lichts in seiner Krone erinnern an die evaneszente Berührung des Heiligen Geistes, und seine makellose Rinde ist das visuelle Wahrzeichen der Auferstehung. In den slavischen vorchristlichen Glauben, war der Birkenwald heilig. Es ist kein Zufall, dass der Baum vom christlichen Glauben importiert wurde: zum Fest der Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit und zu Pfingsten, schmücken die Russen ihre Kirchen mit jungen Birkenbäumen und mit Birkenzweigen, um den Beginn des Sommers und die Heiligung der Kreatur durch das Wunder der Auferstehung, zu bezeichnen. In der Pflanzenwelt, ist die Birke als einzige das Bild der Erscheinung des Herrn. 
Hier haben wir ein Gebiet des Geistes – das auf der Ebene der Ästhetik zum Sublimen gehört – sehr schwierig für die darstellende Kunst, vor allem unter den Bedingungen einer Abnützung der zeitgenössischen Sensibilität in der Ausübung der Kontemplation, ein Gebiet, das von dem grössten Teil der modernen Kunst zum Vergessen verurteilt wird. Wie nähert sich Elisabeth Ochsenfeld diesem Universum des Unsagbaren? 

Ein kraftvoller Künstler, mit einer geprägten, solaren Persönlichkeit, Empfänger einiger Erfahrungen der Avantgarde des Jetzt, die sich formal am entgegengesetzten Pol des Universums des Diaphanen und der Geheimnisse der Mystik slavischer und orthodoxer Abstammung. Elisabeth Ochsenfeld liebt aber die grossen Herausforderungen. Und ist für sie nicht die erste Herausforderung des „Ostens“. Ohne ihr eigenes stilistische und konzeptuelle Arsenal aufzugeben, passt es die rumänische Künstlerin an das untersuchte Universum an, welches sie, seinerseits, schrittweise, allmählich an sich heranzieht. Das Ergebnis, eine Reihe auferlegter Meditationen, entfaltet sich wie ein Gedicht, aus Strophen und Versen bestehend, zum Thema Baum des Lichts. Ein Gedicht in dem der primäre Instinkt von Vernunft beherrscht ist, die streng Gedanken, Impulse, Gefühle, in variable Rhythmen und Sequenzen ordnet und strukturiert, die die gleiche Anzahl von Fazetten der Beziehung Mensch – Landschaft ergeben. Jede kompositorische Struktur deutet eine Pranayama – Übung an, die die innere Atmung, den Rhythmus des Blickes regelt, um einen gewissen Rahmen des erforschten Universums einzuzeichnen. Um diese ontische Übung zu durchführen, verändert Elisabeth Ochsenfeld die Brennweite des Blickes, beziehungweise den Rahmen, der Teile der Wirklichkeit der Grössen, also auch von verschiedenen Essenzen, erfasst. Der Rahmen fordert den Rhythmus des Empfangs , das Temperament jeder Arbeit, immer eine verschiedene ondulatorische Wahrnehmung der Unantastbarkeit des Lichtes übend.