STUDIUL ARTELOR ŞI CULTUROLOGIE: istorie, teorie, practică – Nr. 3 (26), 2015

STUDIUL ARTELOR ŞI CULTUROLOGIE: istorie, teorie, practică – Nr. 3 (26), 2015

Nr. 3 (26), 2015




Assistant profesor Ph.D, University of Arts George Enescu Iaşi, România

Ion Luca Caragiale is a national playwright, and is considered a symbol of Romanian society, and more than 100 years have passed since apparently we have not separated psychologically and behaviourally from the template (pattern) in which loan Luca Caragiale had set the Romanian society. We believe it’s even worse that students at the Faculty of Theater, in the ab­sence of anthropological study, play dramatic texts literally, which increases the risk to stereotype Caragiale’s opera in school.

In this article we intend to present Alexa Visarion’s[1] films, based on Ion Luca Caragiale’s short stories, as well as the play Dale Carnavalului (Of the Carnival) directed by him, as a guest professor, at the National Theatre Art Institute from Reykja-vic, Island (1989). The movies we refer to were the result of some performances played almost with the same distribution for a decade: Năpasta (The Scourage), after the short story with the same name, a movie directed in 1985, starring Dorina Lazar, Florin Zamfirescu and Dorel Visan; Inainte de tacere (Before silence, directed in 1978, after the story In vreme de razboi (in time of war) novel starring Valeria Seciu and Liviu Rozorea. Our demarche aims at highlighting the universality of Ioan Luca Caragiale by essentialization and expressivity.

Keywords: Ioan Luca Caragiale, Alexa Visarion, film, theatre

Ion Luca Caragiale este un autor dramatic naţional şi este considerat emblema societăţii româneşti, împlinindu-se mai bine de 100 de ani de când pare că nu ne-am desprins psihologic şi comportamental de matriţa în care dramaturgul a fixat societatea românească. Ni se pare grav faptul că, studenţilor la Facultatea de Teatru li se întâmplă ca, în lipsa studiului antro­pologic, să joace textele dramatice ad litteram, fapt ce riscă mult şablonizarea operei caragialiene în şcoală.

Intenţionăm ca în acest articol să prezentăm opera filmică a lui Alexa Visarion[2], bazată pe nuvelistica lui Ioan Luca Caragiale, precum şi spectacolul Dale carnavalului, montat de domnia sa la Institutul Naţional de Artă Teatrală din Reyk­javik, Islanda în calitate de profesor invitat (1989). Filmele la care ne referim, au fost rodul unor spectacole jucate aproape în aceeaşi distribuţie vreme de un deceniu: Năpasta, după nuvela cu acelaşi nume, film regizat în 1985, avându-i în distribuţie pe Dorina Lazăr, Florin Zamfirescu şi Dorel Vişan; Înainte de tăcere, regizat în 1978, după nuvela În vreme de război, cu Valeria Seciu şi Liviu Rozorea. Demersul nostru are ca scop reliefarea universalităţii lui Ioan Luca Caragiale prin esenţializare şi expresivitate.

Cuvinte-cheie: Ioan Luca Caragiale, Alexa Visarion, film, teatru

On the 30th of January 2012, Alexa Visarion was invited to Romania Cultural Radio, to talk about Ion Luca Caragiale. Given the 160 years celebration since the writer’s birth, that particular year was declared the „Ion Luca Caragiale” Year. Designed and coordinated in two halves by the hosts of the „Vorba de cultură” (An Accent on Culture) show, Alexa Visarion’s presence developed the subject into an honest dialogue with Ema Stere and Attila Vizauer, under the triple state of theater director, film director, and professor. Although it took place in 2012, the meeting remains, at any times, a valid tes­timony, creating over time a deciphering of Alexa Visarion’s ilmography, based on Caragialian texts and, equally, an understanding of the way in which he reads the work. For the director, the necessity of an existential dialogue with the work he wants to represent on stage or on tape is required, so that it uncurtains itself step by step, in a unique manner. It is impossible to approach a common view against a great work (in this case, Caragiale’s texts) when making way to meeting it. The risks of trivialization or of „novelty” for the sake of the form only occur when the director is guided by the performative encounter of that particular work. Alexa Visarion differentiates between Caragiale’s thoughtfulness regarding the theater and the written work of the great classic. In representation, uniqueness becomes possible, even inevitable because the writing is alive, and the living of the writing may become cre­ative, to the extent that it meets the living of the director. Hereby, the existential dialogue with the work gives birth to a unique encounter, both on the representation (director – work) and the percep­tion level (spectator – performance/film and spectator – work) Thus, the possibility of a unique en­counter between director and work exists in as far as in each era, without risking to distort or to adapt itself, the Caragialian universe acquires new meanings by way of re-reading.

Accomplishing his director work through film and theater, we can see in Alexa Visarion the power of this poetic approach of a classic Caragialian text in two movies carried out at a seven years inter­val, and linked between them by the life of a show whose script he has written according to the short story Năpasta (The Scourge). Objectively speaking, it can be said that the presentation of Năpasta has generated both films. It was the director’s debut on the stage of the Piatra Neamţ Theatre in 1970, after having been noticed during his Theatrical Art Institute studies with the same text; after that, it meant a remarkable success at Giuleşti Theatre in 1974, the representation being held for nine years until 1983, with many tours abroad (in Italy, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary) and obtaining the ATM Prize for Caragialian Exegesis Through Drama and Film in our cultural area (1979). Abroad, the representation has been seen as the continuation of a text of universal value as, along with the updated translation, at the level of scenic expression, the director has used an austere key, plain and expressive for both playing and mise en scène. For those who have not seen the representation, Năpasta, the mo­vie, is fairly faithful to this utmost staging. „What was interesting for the Western world was the fact that we have not created a drama for the peasantry, we have not brought up a rural universe: a tavern, a tavern owner and a revenge story. We have brought up a tragedy. So the focus has shited on the tragic, on the tragic element that, suddenly, has made this representation to be about human destinies living a moment of syncope, of explosion, a moment that has happened to ransack the past and mark the future, although a classical unit, and not a representation about a place. As you know, the whole action takes place within 24 hours. In other words, we had managed to link the ancient tragedy (the tragic es­sence of the ancient Greek theatre) to a Romanian story. We have made, thus, an opening of the work through work (O făclie de Paşte (An Easter Torch), Păcat (Sin), În vreme de război (In Time of War), but also from Mioriţa (The Little Ewe) and Meşterul Manole (The Master Builder Manole). Caragiale can be read through speech out of Caragiale, through current expression, but he can be read through himself, by way of what he suggests. For the first time, we talk about an author who never goes to a formal read­ing. He is an author of many mysteries. Their revealing is carried out in willingly or unwillingly stages of the work, but always supported by artistry. Caragiale is a mastery author. His virtuosity has always imposed revelations. The work always goes beyond its content. It is a stylized expression.”

It is this very styling of expression that embodies Alexa Visarion’s work manner, the bridge be­tween his theatre and film, the theatricality dose within the film, the charging of the film images with multiple meanings so that the speech evolves simultaneously on many levels: on that of the gestures, on the deontological one, on the level of thoughts and ideas, opening itself into the realm of the spirit.

Analyzing the two films rooted in the Caragialian universe, a shade merges; a shade that we belie­ve it approaches Alexa Visarion to Emil Cioran’s thinking and that reveals him as a true creator, faith­ful to Caragiale through the tragic sense – such a necessary component of the enthusiastic Romanian thinking, from Cioran’s point of view and of the satirizing/ humbug type, in Caragiale’s perspective. „Foremost, the director must be a thinker”, writes the author of the two films in an autobiographical volume, for which the purpose of the representation is to confess, not to fascinate. In his films, chasing one’s inner truths explains the austere expression; however, these personal truths equally offer the in­dividual an opening towards identical truths, belonging to humanity. hrough this, the ilm director Alexa Visarion becomes the authentic bearer of the author he screens and a thinker who enters our cultural heritage: „Since caducity anchors me, irritability leaves my thoughts and my heroes are the stances of my inner feelings.” his personalization of events told through images makes him bear a resemblance to Emil Cioran who, after having exhausted his interest for pure philosophy in his youth, left the systematic thinking and abstract speculation, in order to devote himself to some deeply per­sonal thoughts: „I have invented nothing; I have only been the secretary of my sensations.” Cioran’s writings are not actual confessions, even though they are self-referential.

By screening Năpasta (1984), we move past the meaning of affliction (in the short story bearing the same title) in the register of tragic guilt (in the script). The disastrous destinies of the three cha­racters (Anca, Dragomir, Gheorge) come from within, as temptation. hus, we can talk about the ancestral guilt of this world: Adam’s expulsion as fruit of temptation.

he characters, who receive outside blows, are out of this world order: a mad man (Ion) and a hieratic presence translated in the material world by candle light consistency (Dumitru). The external blows vary in intensity, from a touch on the shoulder (Dragomir puts his hand on Dumitru’s shoulder while the latter dances with the wife, to ask a dance for himself. he same kind of touching precedes Dumitru’s hitting with the ax, from behind) to Ion’s systematic beating in the pit, Anca’s imaginary hitting by Dragomir’s ax, George’s wine cups collision at the Priest’s Tavern, inverting the meaning of friendship in ambush and attack, in order to bereave him of Anca.

Temptations block the characters in a pointless struggle. Anca loves Dumitru, Dragomir loves Anca and kills Dumitru. Persecuted by passion, Dragomir allows crime to tempt him and believes that, in the end, running will set him free; however, the getting away frenzy makes him want to also save Ion, whom he had staged the murder of Dumitru. Destiny, as superior resort, temporarily over­laps Dumitru’s run with Ion’s calling for the other world; a calling that has led his running away from the pit through Anca’s house, to the tree next to which Dumitru had been killed.

After the crime reconstitution, Anca looks on the last scene of the fugitive from the hilltop, stan­ding like the spectator in the Greek theatre; she sees how divine justice intervenes by Ion who, com­mitting suicide, makes the real crime perpetrator seem an apparent efecter.

What turns Anca into a tragic heroine is her own inner struggle that she feels when, like Ifigenia carrying her brother to bury him, drags Ion home, to offer him a Christian burial: Anca: „What are you waitin’ for? Run!” Dragomir: „Come along!” Anca: „It’s impossible!” or the battle between crying out Dragomir’s name ater handing him over to the gendarmes and the utterance of the revenge ver­diet. Shrouded by suspicion for nine years until finding out the truth, Anca, as witness of divine justi­ce, oscillates between love and justice, between her duty as a wife to both her husbands, the living and the one passed away..

Gheorghe and Muta from The Priest’s Tavern continue, on a straight horizontal, Anca’s and Dragomir’s destinies. Gheorghe, the one who indecently picks up the prayer candle and uses it to lit the lamp so he could better see the woman of his desires, the one who interrupts Dragomir from ra­ping Anca, not to save her, but to assume the position of her partner, who clears chippings and lime after Anca and Dragomir’s conjugal scandal, Gheorghe, who impetuously enjoys chasing Anca daily and who ties Gheorghe hand and foot, to send him to trial. At the other end of the line is Muta, who finds herself in an impossible love upsurge for Dragomir. Equally, she is the upside down symbol of Dragomir’s love for Anca. And, because while asking her to pour him some wine, all cry to Dragomir to ask his „lover” to sing for him, Muta is a character who can be simultaneously read as the voiceless tongue of a sole woman among men – Anca.

Muta from Năpasta, the movie, continues a space of silence outlined by the director in his Înainte de tăcere (Before Silence) film (1978), fathered from another work of Caragiale, În vreme de război (In Time of War).

In this first film, Alexa Visarion altered silence, creating the connection between characters. Or took seconds of silence – the living time in theatre and captured them in images or developed silence as part of the anthropological theatre, as stated by Caragiale in filmic language. Either way, he did it in a manner that transformed the film into a cinematographic gem. It is difficult to forget the eloquence of this film, in which words are so scarce, in relation to the subtle speech of the image: „Being the primary language, silence is the mise en scène and the language of being. It infers and contains within itself all possible words; it is the infinite reservoir of the words. Thus, silence is the ultimate language, God’s language. […] Silence is not only the matrix, the giving birth womb and principle of the word. Silence is not only the existential condition and the supreme way of the being, but the truest and the most burdensome part of the critter. [.] Silence is more than the beginning, the mystery, and the canon of the being; it is the creature’s meaning and fulillment. It is silence that gives being force, and not the spoken word.”

As the director has said on various occasions, in Înainte de tăcere we recapture characters from the universe of the Năpasta presentation, the principle being that of opening the work through the work itself: the mad man, the elongation-loving woman. In the script signed by Alexa Visarion, we also retrieve reflections of the short story Păcat (Sin): sin as destiny (Stavrache, to Ana: „I am not gu­ilty. he sin was in us”), the bad lot grated in man from birth (marked in Stavrache’s brother); here, the incest between siblings from Sin becomes an original sin (Stavrache, to Ana: „Woman, you are the temptation!”).

he speech of silence is complete, containing the other pole, the wasted words (the noise) and it can be tracked down in the carousel frames.

In Înainte de tăcere, the carousel frames are the parable of the world, as perceived by Caragiale, or the film of the modern and postmodern world: „The world is a carousel, a realm of nothingness. De­prived of personality, the now anonymous man, the man subject to verbal tyranny and exasperation, lives. The play is no longer known; it is a lame bungle of the world, of us, the viewers. Tragedy makes you laugh, comedy makes you cry. But how can a theatre with such background, with a considerably and bright scenery and big drums work? You blind the eyes, you deafen the years, so no one cannot pretend to understand.”

he architecture of the scenario organically includes Chekhovian scenes. It seems that Ana, as imagined by Alexa Visarion, embodies the beautiful and lazy Elena from Unchiul Vania (Uncle Vanya). The dialogue between Ana and Petre, the stray peasant taken by Stavrache to serve and the inn for food, resembles the dialogue between Elena and Ivan Petrovici: „Ana: Life is gone. What for?

I have grown old and I have never gone passed the hogback. [….] So much bleakness. Petre: It is because you sit here and do not feel the world… Ana: What could be on the other side? Petre: All people and troubles.”

Another burdened Chekhovian catchword, but in the context of Stavrache’s story is his cry: „I have to live!”. In Unchiul Vania, Sonia soothes him, after Elena’s departure: „What can you do, you have to live. We’ll live a long, long string of days, of endless evenings […] and we’ll toil for others […] without knowing rest and, when time comes, we’ll die obediently.”

The fundamental theme of the two movies, Năpasta and Înainte de tăcere, is sin. The Caragialian texts are opened through ilm in a Dostoevskian key. Can this make Alexa Visarion a less original ilm author?… Caragiale would answer: „The later the artist or the thinker came into the world, the more he needs to be original by far, and to possess a greater power of design, in order to surpass the increa­singly capital of the human thinking and to ind a new form”.

Bibliographic references

  1. CARAGIALE, I.L.Despre Teatru (Concerning Theatre). Bucharest: the State Publishing House for Literature and Art, 1957.
  2. CEHOV, A.P.Teatru (Theatre), with a foreword by Leonida Teodorescu. Bucharest: Univers Publishing House,


  1. REMETE, G.Cunoaşterea prin tăcere (Experience Through Knowledge). Alba Iulia: The Reunion Publishing

House, 2011.

  1. VISARION, A. Goana pe nisip (Bolting on Sand). Bucharest: Biblyotek Publishing House, 2012.

[1]Alexa Visarion, director and screenwriter. Professor at the National University of Arts in Bucharest and Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Arts in Iasi place where he teaches public lectures and courses in the doctoral school. He received the Romanian Academy Award for the whole Theatrical and Cinematographic creation and UNITER award for the entire artistic activity.

[2]Alexa Visarion, regizor şi scenarist. Profesor universitar doctor la Universitatea Naţională de Arte din Bucureşti şi Doctor Honoris Causa al Universităţii de Arte din Iaşi, spaţiu în care susţine conferinţe şi cursuri publice în cadrul şcolii doctorale. A primit Premiul Academiei Române pentru întreaga creaţie teatrală şi cinematografică şi premiul UNITER pentru întreaga activitate artistică.