Romanian film review – Dreamers and Dimwits: Ana

A few days ago I watched Ana at Scala cinema (on Magheru Boulevard in Bucharest) and was wondering why I was the only one in the entire theatre and why all the personnel were so overwhelmingly friendly. After ten minutes into the movie, I knew. This must be one of the worst films screened there in recent times and the cinema staff probably knew it and felt for me.

Ana tells the story of an aging man who was persecuted during communism for anti-regime comments and for wanting to adapt the myth of the master builder Manole (meșterul Manole) as told by a well-known folk poem (why this was a reason for persecution, I don’t know; the myth was not banned back then).

According to the myth, the cathedral Manole and his men were commissioned to build kept crumbling at night. One night, Manole dreamt that the only way to stop that was to bury a beloved person in its walls. The next morning, he decided together with his builders that the first wife to appear would be sacrificed. Tragically for Manole, that was his young and pregnant wife Ana, whom he broken-heartedly walled in. When Manole subsequently told the tyrannical prince who had commissioned the church that he could build an even greater building, the latter had him and his masons trapped on the roof so that they couldn’t build something bigger. They made wooden wings and tried to fly off the roof, but they all fell to the ground and died. A spring of clear water is said to mark the spot where Manole fell.

In Ana, the nameless Manole-obsessed ‘hero’ spends his days frolicking around the countryside, aka a dusty village near Bucharest, and chatting up a ‘mysterious’ young woman whom he constantly asks what her name is and decides to call her Ana when she sulkily refuses to do so. It seems ‘Ana’ has her own past demons to battle, meaning prostitution in Italy.

Throw in a broody local teenager who seems to have a crush on the woman, and some characters who knew the ‘hero’ in the past and there you have it, a film about overcoming past trauma and daring to live in the here and now and start anew. And follow one’s dreams. If only it weren’t so utterly messy (some characters appear briefly and then are never followed up on, and this is just one of the many halls in the script), and annoyingly naïve. And so muddy about how the myth of Manole relates to all of this. Is it the visionary man (Manole – director) who never gives up on his dream, the woman who regains her innocence in contact with him and becomes his Ana? And does this all mean there will soon be a tragic ending to their meeting? We will never know.

Răzvan Vasilescu does his best to play a man who chooses to follow his calling and enjoy life to the fullest, but he still can’t save his character from being silly, while all the other actors are even less involved in their roles. Neither the dialogue (which is often involuntarily hilarious and terrible in its ‘staged’ freshness) nor the technical aspects help save this film. Just like the Ana of the folk myth, this one is doomed as well.

I’ve been trying to think of one or two aspects for which to still recommend this film, but there are none. However, just in case you want to see for yourselves, these are the film’s screening venues and times in cinemas across the country.

By Ioana Moldovan, [email protected]

Romania Insider
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