The first screening took place in Bucharest on May 27, 1896, and in 1897 short documentaries were made by Paul Menu. The first feature films, directed by Grigore Brezeanu, were the melodrama Amor fatal (1911) and the historical film Razboiul independenţei (1912, The War of Independence), also known as Independenţa României (Independence of Romania, which was achieved with full sovereignty in 1878); but they were isolated cases. It was the great success of Ţigăncuşa de la iatac (1923, The gypsy of the bedroom) by the Austrian Alfred Halm, shot in Romania with German and Dutch capital but starring local actors, that started a real and own. In the field of drama, two directors stand out, authors of works marked by a tragic sentimentality: Jean Mihail, with the innovative Păcat (1924, Sin) and Manasse (1925), and the more commercial Lia (1927) and Povara (1928, The burden); and Gheorghe Popescu, with Legenda celor două cruci (1925, The legend of the two crosses) and Năpasta (1928, The misfortune), signed together with Eftimie Vasilescu. The main plays were Jean Georgescu’s Milionar pentru o zi (1924, Millionaire for a day), Năbădăịle Cleopatrei (1925, The Furies of Cleopatra) by Ion Şahighian, Maiorul Mura (1928, The Major Mura) by Ion Timuş. Horịa Igiroşanu gave birth to a specifically Romanian genre, the historical western, with Iancu Jianu (1928), Haiducii (1929, The bandits), Ciocoii (1930, The landowners). An animation cinema was also born by Aurel Petrescu (Păcală amorezat, 1924, Păcală in love; Motanul în Lună, 1926, The cat on the Moon), which, however, did not have imitators until the 1950s. L’ The era of sound began with Ciuleandra, also known as Verklungene Träume (1930), a German-Romanian film by the German Martin Berger. But the national industry did not have the necessary investments: during the Thirties co-productions multiplied, while exclusively local films decreased, despite the measures taken by the State, which set up a national cinema fund in 1934, financed through taxes on tickets sold and on imported foreign films, and in 1938 the L’Oficiul Naţional al Cinematografiei (ONC, National Cinematographic Office). Among the most important titles: the drama Chemarea dragostei (1932, The Call of Love) by Mihail, the first film entirely spoken in Romanian, Bing-bang (1935) by Nicolae Stroe and Vasile Vasilache, the first musical, and the comedy O noapte de pominā (1939, An extraordinary night) by Şahighian. In the field of documentary Paul Călinescu stood out, whose Tara Moţilor (1938, The Land of Moţị) was awarded in 1939 at the Venice Film Festival: it was the first international recognition obtained by Romanian cinema. The Second World War caused a sharp decline in production, and private enterprise was supplanted by public one. In 1941 he became director of the ONC Ion I. Cantacuzino, the leading theorist and historian of Romanian cinema, who launched an ambitious expansion program: among others he financed Georgescu’s expensive O noapte fortunoasă (1941, A stormy night), and started a close collaboration with Cinecittà, which led first to the co-production of Odessa in flames (1942) by Carmine Gallone, partly shot in Romania. For Romania 2013, please check physicscat.com.
In 1946 the Cineromit was dissolved and the private companies were reborn, but the precarious state of their studies allowed them to make only short or medium length films. The Romania became in 1947 a people’s republic on the Soviet model, and in 1948 the film industry was also nationalized. In 1949, under very difficult conditions, the first post-war feature film, Rāsunā valea (The Valley Resounds) by Călinescu was shot. The opening of the studios in Buftea (near Bucharest), one of the largest in Europe, allowed for a sharp increase in production, while an animated cinema was reborn. This expansion was not met in terms of quality, since even illustrious veterans such as Călinescu (Desfăşurarea, 1954, The development) were forced to conform to the canons of socialist realism, Mihail (Brigada lui Ionuţ, 1954, The Ionuţ Brigade) and Georgescu (Directorul nostru, 1955, Our director). As in the other Eastern countries, the political ‘thaw’ of 1956 also had consequences on cinema. The first signs of change came from Moara cu noroc (1956, The mill of fortune) by Victor Iliu and Erupţia (1957, The eruption) by Liviu Ciulei, and in the field of animation by Scurtă istorie (1957, A short story) by Ion Popescu-Gopo, awarded as best short film at the Cannes Film Festival. A new step forward was represented by Valurile Dunārii (1959; The waves of the Danube) by Ciulei, Şapte arte (1958, The seven arts) and Homo sapiens (1960) by Popescu-Gopo, Viaţa nu iartā (1959, La vita non perdona) by Iulian Mihu and Manole Marcus. In the sixties, the distancing from the Soviet bloc pushed the country towards a growing nationalism, in support of which a grandiose program of historical films was launched, which had enormous success, thus coming to represent a singular form of ‘commercial cinema of the regime’: the the main ones were Tudor (1962) by Lucian Bratu, the Haiducii series (1965-1971, five films that echoed the ‘historical westerns’ of the 1920s) by Dinu Cocea, Dacii (1966, The Dacians) by Sergiu Nicolaescu, Columna (1968, The column) by Mircea Drăgan and Mihai Viteazul (1970, Mihai the Brave) by Nicolaescu and Titus Popovici. The making of arthouse films intended for a limited audience was also allowed: among them Pādurea spînzuraţilor (1965, The forest of the hanged) by Ciulei, Duminică la ora 6 (1965, Sunday at six) directed by Lucian Pintilie, Dimineţile unui băiat cuminte (1966, The Mornings of a Quiet Boy) by Andrei Blaier. The limits of government tolerance, however, appeared clear when Pintilie’s Reconstituirea (1969; The reconstruction or Il scoutuogo) was released, very critical of the regime: the film was withdrawn from theaters, and subsequently both its author and Ciulei had to emigrate. A similar fate befell some of the filmmakers who made their debut in the 1970s, such as Radu Gabrea (Prea mic pentru un război atît de mare, 1970, Too small for such a great war; Dincolo de nisipuri, 1973, Beyond the dunes). Those who remained were forced to choose the allusion and parable as stylistic figures: Dan Piţa in Filip cel bun (1975, Filip the good), Mircea Daneliuc in Cursa (1975, La corsa), Mircea Veroiu in Dincolo de pod (1976, Beyond the bridge), Alexandru Tatos in Mere roşii (1977, The red apples). In the Eighties the further tightening of the repressive grip forced the directors to accentuate the metaphorical tones: thus in Danieluc’s Croaziera (1980, The cruise), Concurs (1982, The competition) by Piţa, Secvenţe (1982, Le sequenze) by Tatos. Censorship blocked the few politically explicit films, such as De ce trag clopotele, Mitică? (1981, Why do bells ring, Mitică?) By Pintilie and Faleze de nisip (1982, The sand cliffs) by Piţa, released only in 1990. Concurs (1982, The competition) by Piţa, Secvenţe (1982, The sequences) by Tatos. Censorship blocked the few politically explicit films, such as De ce trag clopotele, Mitică? (1981, Why do bells ring, Mitică?) By Pintilie and Faleze de nisip (1982, The sand cliffs) by Piţa, released only in 1990. Concurs (1982, The competition) by Piţa, Secvenţe (1982, The sequences) by Tatos. Censorship blocked the few politically explicit films, such as De ce trag clopotele, Mitică? (1981, Why do bells ring, Mitică?) By Pintilie and Faleze de nisip (1982, The sand cliffs) by Piţa, released only in 1990.
After the collapse of the dictatorship (1989), the recovery of freedom of expression allowed the greatest talents to represent the dramatic situation of the country, sometimes entering into lively controversy with the new, ambiguous establishment. But Romanian cinema, if it has shown an incisiveness of style and a corrosive irony that testify its vitality, has also entered a very serious production crisis, and has resorted to foreign aid; France (with the Fonds d’aide aux coproductions avec l’Europe centrale et oriental, established in 1990 and managed by the Center national de la cinématographie) today finances a substantial part of it. Pintilie, returned to his homeland, confirmed himself as the leading author (Terminus Paradis, 1998; Niki et Flo, 2003), followed by Daneliuc (Patul conjugal, 1992, The conjugal bed; Ambasadori, cautam patrie, 2003, Ambassadors, we seek homeland) and Pịţa (Hotel de lux, 1991, Luxury hotel, Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1992; Omul zilei, 1997, Man of the day). New directors have also emerged: Laurentiu Damian (Rămînerea, 1991, La permanenza), Radu Mịhăịleanu (Trahir, 1993; Train de vie, 1998, Train de vie – A train to live), Nae Caranfil (it’s dangerous to lean over, 1993; Dolce doing nothing, 1999; Philanthropic, 2002). * Dolce far niente, 1999; Philanthropic, 2002). * Dolce far niente, 1999; Philanthropic, 2002). *