A runaway gypsy slave in early 19th-century Wallachia is hunted down by a constable and his son in Radu Jude's most accomplished and original feature yet, "Aferim!" In his two previous films, Jude's leitmotif was people's inhumanity to one another, full of power games and humiliations. Here he stays true to the theme, using this black-and-white oater to trace the roots of Romanian society's less positive characteristics. While its tone is occasionally overly strident, "Aferim!" is an exceptional, deeply intelligent gaze into a key historical period, done with wit as well as anger."Aferim!" is an Ottoman Turkish expression meaning "bravo!," a word used with deep irony in the film but one that can equally be directed, without any irony, at the director. A great deal of the freshness lies in the way Jude dispenses with traditional historical-film trappings even while cleaving to the classic structure of fugitive-hunting Westerns.There's nothing staid or prettified here, and while a significant amount of background research is on show, the helmer uses it to re-create an atmosphere rather than a specific, sacrosanct event.
I think it's almost impossible for someone who is not a Romanian speaker to really get most of the dialog in this movie. There are a lot of archaic words and expressions from funny to sad or contemplative that are for sure lost in translation. I am a Romanian, born and raised in this country, and I didn't understand 30-35 % of the words. I have to see it again with subtitles on to fully appreciate the mesmerizing Wallachian dialect. It's a great movie nonetheless, with beautiful cinematography and solid performances from the actors, so I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to see how life was 200 years ago in Romania.
I'm of Romanian descent, so I'm not entirely objective on this, but as far as film can actually change perceptions of how we see the world around us, "Aferim" is without a doubt an unmatched masterpiece and an absolute first in many ways. It's a rare Romanian historical drama set before the 20th century (with the exception of historical biopics of communist era). It's thematically a Western (or Eastern), since it involves a long journey on horseback, strongly and intentionally recalling "The Searchers". Most importantly, it's an endless series of interchanges with representatives of society back then, by which virtually every social problem of the present day is touched. The genius of this film is that it follows a timeline, through which the spectator is at times bemused and at times horrified by the behavior of the main protagonist, a constable charged with capturing a runaway slave accompanied by his inept son. In a thoroughly realistic way unlike any historical film I have ever seen, we see him treat priests and nobles with respect and peasants and Roma with indifferent cruelty. Sometimes he shows a conscience, as when bonding with his son or asking the slave owner for clemency upon returning him. Sometimes he is shockingly ruthless, like when he sells a Rom boy they also picked up to a passing noble because he wants to afford drinking and whoring.Not only is this the first portrayal of slavery in Romania, a topic not taught in schools and therefore quite controversial. It is a completely naturalistic portrayal as well, unlike any emotionally charged tales out of Hollywood. It easily beats the credibility of "12 Years a Slave", because Jude maintains a sardonic, matter-of-fact narrative instead of drenching his film in moral lessons about the nature of good and evil. Teodor Corban delivers his cop character as a product of his times, with no judgment or exoneration of his actions. If there is one slight weakness at all, it's that the dialogues are sometimes very fast and probably very difficult to translate. As a Romanian raised abroad, I found myself guessing at roughly half of the vocabulary, and even though I got most of the irony, I would not know how to explain it to foreigners and keep the meaning intact. "Aferim!" means "Excellent!" as a Turkish exclamation (recalling that Wallachia at he time was a vassal to the Ottoman Empire - when the constable sends a Turkish carriage the wrong way to spite the Turks, this is how his son praises him. So the title perfectly describes the film in one word - a tale of a time when the ignorant hated everyone else, not realizing how similar they were. When the privileged few treated the abject poor as mere objects, aided by the apathy of commoners, who could not imagine any alternative. This horror mixed with irony resonated strongly with audiences, and would certainly justify a foreign language Oscar next year.
Being based on lots of writings from that era, I suppose that this movie reflects a fair image of life in Tara Romaneasca (Wallachia) of the 19th Century, with its' patterns and prejudices. It probably does some justice to today's Romani, when Europe encounters them again and there is no narrative to explain who their ancestors were. And maybe it does some justice to today's Romanians too, when the European public finds out what is the distinction between Romanians and Romani.The movie can evoke amusement, disapproval, empathy. However, the spectator discovers more and more that comedy turns to tragedy.I appreciate the fact that Aferim has complex characters that are not entirely positive or negative.
Set in 1835 in Walachia, Romania, we meet Consatndin who is a Constable – he is accompanied by his eager but less effective son – Ionita. They are chasing an escaped slave, this is a Roma man who has stolen money and run away from a Boyar (who has the most impressive hat imaginable).Along the way the two men come across many more Roma – whom they refer to as 'Crows' (because crows are black) and treat them like the underclass they believe them to be. They also run into a number of other – less than savoury – characters including the World's most xenophobic Priest. What follows is story that can be seen as comedic, harrowing and at times almost bewildering in its depiction of what times were like. The enslavement of the Roma is a subject rarely mentioned and so this is groundbreaking in many ways.It is filmed in black and white and is lit in such a way to make this seem many years older than it is, Director Radu Jude said this is a western and did a lot to evoke the early westerns in theme and composure of the story, but he has also created a film that is unique too. There is violence here and scenes that some may find upsetting but it is just an amazing watch. Languages are Romanian, Turkish and Roma with OK sub titles to be fair. The title 'Aferim' means 'bravo' in Turkish and as the Romanians hated the Ottoman Empire it is ironic that they use this word as a form of praise – but that is intentional. Nominated for the 88th Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film I feel this is in with rather a big chance and is a film that I can absolutely recommend to all World cinema fans.
an useful film. for understand the roots of modern Romania. a beautiful one. for archaic language's flavor, for the nuances of emotions, for the powerful clichés who defines the Walachian society not only in the year 1835. a seductive film. for the good performances, for the crumbs from great films, for the art to broke the limits between artistic film and documentary. an interesting film. for the science to reflect a period's deep lines of life. for humanity and for the grace of details. for the art not to remand but recreate not only a portrait but a state . for dialogs and for the values. for something who reflects the profound Romania behind the definitions or verdicts. Teodor Corban does an admirable job and Radu Jude becomes more than a promise for Romanian cinema. because, for the foreign public Aferim ! could be a slice of exotic world from Balkans in the XIX century. for the Romanians it represents chain of answers for a lot of questions. and, maybe, an exercise of honesty.
What critics and audiences call 'the Romanian New Wave' is not that new any longer. Already in its teens it has focused on the present times, and the recent past of Romania - the last decade of the Communist era and the 'transition' period the country went through after the fall of the Communism. By doing so it neglected a tradition built into the history of the Romanian cinema - the historic movies. The first grand Romanian movie made more than a century ago was already a historic film, bringing back to screen the War of Independence of Romania in 1877 several decades after the event. The genre was taken over and polluted in the Communist period by many films which not only brought on screen heroic episodes and heroes of the Romanian history but also distorted it on the lines of the National-Communist propaganda of the regime. This may be the reason Romanian directors, producers, and audiences as well avoided the genre for a while. It is only in the last few years that historical themes came back to screens in more significant movies - the war period and the Holocaust first. Now 'Aferim!' by Radu Jude goes further back in the past, to the first half of the 19th century. His film (blessed with an important prize at the Berlin Festival early this year) however has also strong and explicit implications in the realities of today's Romania as well.Folks who know the history of Romanian cinema and remember some of the films made decades back will recognize elements of atmosphere and quotes. The 'Eastern' genre which took the structure of the classical American Westerns bringing on screen local characters or even changing the landscape to the fields, forests and mountains of the Romanian countries was popular in the 70s with the 'Haidouk' series but also in the works of Dan Pita (the 'Ardelenii' series). The inspired black and white cinematography credited to Marius Panduru and the very conventional generic that opens the film brought in mind the even older 'Tudor' by Lucian Bratu made in 1962 which dealt with events that took place 14 years before the year 1835 when 'Aferim!' is situated. The violently naturalistic nature of some of the scenes has also its roots in the Romanian literature (Liviu Rebreanu's novels) which were also brought to screen.Yet, this film aims more. The story of the local sheriff (let us use this name for the sake of the international audience) and of his son searching for a fugitive gypsy in the forest and swamps of Wallachia is not just a road movie or an initiation story from the perspective of the young lad destined to inherit the profession of his father. It is a deep and cruel reflection of the prevailing attitude not only of the ruling class but of the whole or great majority of the population of Romania towards other nationalities. The story and the characters come in a frontal manner against deeply rooted stereotypes like the welcoming attitude of Romanians towards strangers or the positive role of the Orthodox church in the moral fiber and education of the masses. It is actually a priest who speaks on screen a tirade full of prejudice against all categories of strangers living or getting in contact with the Romanian at that time - Gypsies of course, but also Jews, Turks, Russians, etc. Folks less familiar with the history of Romania should know that by 1835 Romania was still broken into smaller countries under Turkish, Austrian and Russian rulers - so what is seen on screen has a historical perspective. It is howeve
By Daniel K. Buntovnik"Aferim!" is (virtually) the first film ever to depict the enslavement of Rromani people that occurred for some five hundred years in the present day territories of Romania. The film's writers set out elucidate a period which Romanian society is for the most part reticent to acknowledge — much less critically engage with. The void is not less existent in the Anglosphere. While critics have proclaimed "Aferim!" to be "something new", they have also touted the film as a Western à la Vlach, pointing to influence from this genre observable in its frequent shots of expansive landscapes with men on horseback and wagons. This is hardly groundbreaking in and of itself, since the conventions and tropes of this seemingly quintessentially American film genre were long ago appropriated (and, to an extent, subverted) by Europeans on both sides of the Iron Curtain, giving us the Spaghetti Western and the Red Western, aka the Eastern. Both had significant overlaps with the Revisionist Western: a genre that undermines narratives of the Wild West as the domain of the white settler. "Aferim!" has also drawn comparisons to more recent American slave movies, but it is certainly much more than a rehash of these films, never losing sight of the brutal particularities of the 19th century Wallachian context.Insofar as this particular historical period has until recently remained unvisited by cinema, we are not coming back to anything, but approaching something new. What we do revisit in "Aferim!" are actually present day social attitudes (in particular, antiziganism). The Revisionist aspect of the film also means pushing back against what little narrative does exist acknowledging the enslavement of Rromani (and Tatar) people at the hands of the Romanian Orthodox Church, nobles, and principality-states. In Romania, the "official" narrative is to downplay and minimize the reality of Rroma enslavement. Its main tactics are to highlight alleged fundamental differences between "sclavie" (slavery) and "robie" (another supposedly milder form of servitude unique to this region). This stress of difference between "sclavie" and "robie" is at the same time accompanied by a playing up of the similarities between "robie" and feudal serfdom. "Aferim!" demolishes these pedantic arguments by laying bare the chasm of difference between social statuses ascribed to Gypsies and Wallachian peasants. In this regard, "Aferim!" is a "Revisionist Eastern".Despite its orientation towards the past, the film is clearly forward thinking. At one point, Costandin engages in an interrogatory monologue about relations between the living and the dead; he wonders how "we" (21st century people) will remember "them". What will we say about "them"? But this monologue is ambiguous. "They", the dead, could be he and his son (and the larger white, Orthodox community they belong to), but the dead could just as easily be the Gypsy slaves in their captivity. Costandin's comments reflect the research of ethnologist Patrick Williams presented in his book "Gypsy World: The Silence of the Living and the Voices of the Dead". For Williams, the way that European societies erase and render Rromani communities invisible was reflected in the way the French Gypsies he lived with (seemed to) render the dead invisible by avoiding talking directly
an old story. about a society and its people, traditions and every day life. a film who reminds a world who has only reflection for a lost age. same brutal language like many Romanian films after 1989, the same desire for appreciation, using dark clichés. . but a special message. like a testimony, a kind of parable, as a bitter story about life, world, destiny, justice and faith. Radu Jude does an good work.with a profound commercial purpose. but he explores the profound manner to discover/define an universe who describes the habits of present Romania. so, a gray movie , decent performances, nice script - puzzle of old writings, songs ,careful documentation, delicate traces from Bergman, trip in heart of a circle who remains frame from Balkans. a film who could be a deep subjective history lesson. in fact, only support for reflection. about the roots of present.
Indeed, you have to know the 19th century background of Romania, however it portraits it in a very good manner: the atmosphere of the epoch and the subject is dealt with in depth! It seems that we already saw this movie (or its subject)with other slaves (mostly black people in other countries endorsing slavery)however this one is a special case.All actors are excellent and the black and white colors intensify the dramatic aspects (wonderful forest takes!). I am lucky to know modern Romanian, because the dialog is very important, revealing the behavior, tradition and prejudices of the time (that in some areas of the country are still there...)far away from so called "politically correctness" endorsed in the western culture!(watch the priest opinion about different nations, especially the Jews!). In relation to dialogue, the last sentences of the father to his shocked son are an excellent example of how most of the people behave in face of horrors and injustice!
A grand film from Romania, directed with surety by Radu Jude, is even stronger because it is dealing with age old bigotry against gypsies, offered in contemporary language (many F bombs here – at least in the translation) that suits the theme well, and since we are dealing with prejudices on every level, the choice to make the film in Black and White makes it all the more pungent.AFERIM! Is not only an interesting historical statement, but it is also a parody of the religious practices of the 19th century – Christian monasteries and encountered priests on the road speak of why gypsies are inferior descendants of Noah's son Ham and there for are to be reviled. But gypsies are not the only people who are mocked by the father/son travelers in this quest for capturing a renegade gypsy: the father speaks about the nasty traits of the Turks, the Greeks, the English, the French, etc etc etc leaving no one in the world (which by the way is not round but ends in a precipice!). But on to the story – and there is one worth seeing: 'Set in early 19th century Wallachia, when a local policeman, Costandin, is hired by Iordache, a boyar (local noble), to find Carfin, a Gypsy slave who had run away from the boyar's estate after having an affair with his wife, Sultana. Costandin sets out to find the fugitive, beginning a journey full of adventures. Gypsy slavery lasted from the 14th century up until the middle of the 19th century, a situation which is very little known and almost nonexistent in the public debate today, although its impact continues to influence Romania's social life.'This little film slipped by viewers and it is hopeful that under the auspices of BIG WORLD PICTURES it will garner enough attention that audiences today will witness the very profound lessons it tells with such a gift of comedic dialogue. We all have much to learn from this film.