On a cold winter day at the beginning of this year, one of the most loved and maybe, at the same time, hated Romanian artist, the famous Romanian director Sergiu Nicolaescu died. For me, and for many people from my generation he was a symbol of my childhood. I remember how some of his movies helped me discover history and have a more vivid imagination. One of his movies, Mihai Viteazul/Michael the Brave marked me. The sad story of the first Romanian “voievod,” who unifies the three Romanian countries at the end of the 16th century made the little romantic girl that I was back then fall in love for the first time in her life, to fall in love with…. history and a brave and handsome warrior king. After I watched the movie, I began to read historical novels about this very explosive king and, day after day, I enriched my knowledge about our history and I was definitively conquered by it. Then I began to watch the foreign historical movies such Spartacus, El Cid or the BBC Shakespeare series. Those movies got into reading historical novels about great empires.
The historical movie created by Sergiu Nicolaescu was the trigger for my life long love for history and I must thank the late director for this. I’m not a movie critic, I’m only a movie lover and I won’t discuss the artistic quality or the historical truth in Nicolaescu’s movies. But the director’s death made me remember what an important role his movie played in my life. Sergiu Nicolaescu made almost 60 films, he was a complex and controversial character, he was a very handsome and sporty man, but, for me, he was my first history teacher.
This article could very well end here, after I have paid my respects to the film director. But what happened at his funeral requires further comments. His family’s decision to respect his wish of being cremated caused a so called social reaction that I never thought could happen in Romania.
Another unexpected reaction was from the media, which broadcasted endless talk shows about this decision and invited so called specialists to talk about it, some trying to persuade readers that a normal, Christian funeral would have been better. I watched horror stricken the intolerant attitudes, I saw people judging with arrogance, I saw people being aggressive as if the they held the absolute truth. The immediate and prompt results of those broadcasts were angry people screaming and damming the Nicolaescu’s family, mainly his young wife, on the very day of his cremation.
Another reaction came from the Orthodox Church, which hid beyond the canon, saying the Orthodox Church does not offer religious services for cremation, maybe in fear of setting a dangerous precedent. I think its attitude had a huge impact on people and led to the same result as the TV broadcasts.
One reaction which almost made me sick was the attitude of a few politicians, who tried to hijack the event for political gains. Romanian politicians used the funeral to set themselves up as moral guardians preaching, the only truth, the Orthodox one. These characters triggered a dark image in my mind: carrion eating black ravens picking at a body.
But what most shocked me was the behavior of the general public. The indignation stirred by the closed coffin made me ask why they wanted to see the dead body? Orthodox tradition or vulture-like curiosity to see how death had transformed a handsome man? Were the angry shouts and hate-filled words an overreaction resulting from a deep Orthodox belief or just bitter envy of a family inheriting a sizable fortune?
All these made me give a lot of thought to the Romanian people, or at least of the more vocal part of society. Of course we can say that the angry people who were involved in the event were the few and they cannot represent the entire Romanian people. But the do anything for TV ratings approach and the strange and incomprehensible attitude of the church could damage the nation’s soul, as well as harming Romania’s image. If the media promotes only intolerance, hatred, and lack of balance as the real values of the Romanian people the net result cannot be good for Romania. If the Romanian Orthodox Church doesn’t try to modernize and adapt to the 21st century, it will create a big gap between parts of population, one group still living in almost medieval mysticism and another part of the population, more educated, more connected with universal values and which will run to the other religions (Christian or not) or become only skeptical non believers.
The events around Sergiu Nicolaescu’s death made me ask a few questions.
Why do we have that arrogance to judge the life, the thoughts, the wishes and the actions of another man or woman? The result of years of communism as the absolute truth to be replaced by the absolute truth of the free market?
Why doesn’t our traditional Orthodox Church try to better understand the international context and its effect on Romanians? Why doesn’t our historical church want to adapt to the new reality?
Why don’t our media channels want to cover the complete story of an event? For instance, there were some good events organized in recent days for fans of Sergiu Nicolaescu’s movies, such as free film screenings. How many minutes did TV channels allot for these? Why don’t our media channels understand and accept that not only the rating is important? Why broadcast so much unbalanced and ill informed commentary?
When will our authorities take action to provide a good and balanced education for Romanians? When will families understand their role in education?
And, the last and, in my opinion the most important question: Where is Romania’s good sense?
By Mariana Ganea, Guest Writer