Meandre (1966)

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saskiul said...

"I have spent my whole life in meanders, only in meanders. They fired me, excluded me, included, decomposed me, destroyed me” - confessed director and writer Mircea Săucan in Iulia Blaga’s book, Fantasme şi adevǎruri. O carte cu Mircea Sǎucan, while referring to the odds in the „daily circuit” he had to overcome. If we were to believe what Tarkovski said, an artist never works under ideal circumstances. “If those circumstances existed, said the director of Andrei Rublev, there would be no masterpiece, since an artist does not live in a void. A certain pressure from exterior has to exist. An artist exists in spite of the imperfect world he lives in, and art – which is born in an unfair world – would not justify its existence in a perfect world where man would not pursue harmony, but would rather live in it...” Borrowing consonances and moods from “la nouvelle vague”, from Antonioni, Godard, Fellini, Bresson or Tarkovski, Mircea Săucan manages to reshape the m as original harmonies which have turned into a profoundly cinematic achievement, yet to be discovered by general audiences and connoisseurs alike: Când primăvara e fierbinte – 1960; Ţărmul nu are sfârşit – 1962, Meandre – 1967; Alerta – 1968; O sută de lei – 1973. The opposition to Săucan’s films was very strong: the critics and the party managed to ban most of his work on grounds of home affairs or simply because they were too...intellectual.

In his book called Pray for brother Alexandru / Rugaţi-vă pentru fratele Alexandru, the well known philosopher Constantin Noica anticipated – in a nutshell – Săucan’s poetical vision. Noica foresaw – involuntarily – the style Săucan was to develop when he blamed the films which rely on plot too much for fixing, in series of images, the viewer’s free imagination when they should rather free it, perhaps – he said – showing again and again, in different ways, the same scene... În Meandre (the parting at the train station; the reconciliation – on the sea shore - between the mature man and the young man who wants to know the truth about his parents) and O sută de lei (the dialogue between the two brothers in the car following the theft in the grocery; the thrice crossing of the swamp; the joyride after the girl’s confession) Mircea Săucan resumes the same scene two or three times, each time more enriching in meaning.

What goes on in Meandre? Nothing incomprehensible, nothing subversive. The film speaks (with the help of a sophisticated syntax and a cinematic language too advanced for the time when it was released) two different worldviews and approaches two self-fulfillment. The characters are two intellectuals (two architects) who respond differently to their inner calling. An abstract confrontation, yet with concrete victims: a wife gives up on the man whom she loves (only to marry an older, richer, safer, and better politically oriented man) though she meets him again over the years; a son loses faith in himself (and in his parents alike), but he finally manages to reconcile with his father.

The banning and the scandal following its release were caused by the total lack of sensibility for the cinema of Săucan – a style of an impressive artistic nature. “What surprised – undoubtedly – in 1967, and what surprises even today – says Iulia Blaga – is the extraordinary modernity of its style. Meandre is a very geometrical movie, and its geometry overlaps perfectly with its world without spatial or temporal limits, where the camera cuts off parts of faces and objects – the real size of truths being unable to capture with one’s sight. Nearly each frame is perfectly crafted – the entire film is a poetical geometry of black and white forms. Between them Săucan leaves room for nuances – the grey can be found in various tints, from the sand on the beach to the dark spaces the heroes never seem to fill.” Understanding Săucan is not easy a task, it involves a sort of preliminary “initiation” and a certain amount of intellectual curiosity on the part of the viewer. Meandre – said George Littera – „grows in very long shots which are interspersed in a kind of past-present and present-past narrative. Sǎucan is not interested in the plot, he does not care about great events. What does he care for then? Moods, his characters’ winding psychology and its deceiving game. “The plot” has to be figured out by the viewer from very few elements and this involves a greater effort of concentration on his part, since the average cinema goer is used to watching a simple story which does not necessarily need to be chewed over. In order to enjoy Săucan’s movie one needs to have been familiar with this type of cinema – syncopated, full of spatial and temporal sliding, a cinema which speaks through hints rather than straightforward images.” Another film critic, Alice Mănoiu, noticed “the gift of continuous composing and recomposing the cinematic structure, the modern architecture and its voluntary epic discontinuity, the suggestive stream of images (cameraman: Gheorghe Viorel Todan), the inspired editing which follows closely the merry-go-round of all sensations and emotions that are enriched with a highly suggestive expressiveness”, as well as the excellent performances (Pǎlǎdescu, Pogonat, Maftei, Nuţu, Szeles) – “all interwoven in a subtle orchestration, which make of Săucan a profound author.” Săucan’s original style has been praised over the years by Radu Ionescu: “His films cannot fit in the average production of movies. They are to be loved by people who have a calling, or by people who are tormented with metaphysical questions, or simply by people in search for the beauty who, on a vast and fruitless field, can discover the only flower made by the very hand of God. Thus, how can one not love Mircea Săucan?”

A last thought about Meandre? Perhaps the one inspired by the optimistic words of the late and unmatchable film theorist and aesthetician, George Littera: “Meandre is one of the most iconoclastic films (though without any emphatic overtones) Romanian studios have ever made and I trust it will resume its place among masterpieces of the 20th centuries when criticism – now in a process of gradual awakening – proceeds at re-examining and reinterpreting it.”