- November 1, 1965
In 1916 as an officer in the Habsburg Army ethnic Romanian Apostol Bologa is torn between remaining loyal to the Habsburgs or deserting to the Romanian Army across enemy lines.
Directed by: Liviu Ciulei
Script by: Titus Popovici, Liviu Rebreanu
Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Liviu Ciulei, Stefan Ciubotarasu, György Kovács, Anna Széles, Gina Patrichi, András Csiky, Emmerich Schäffer
Producers: Mihai Crisan
Cinematography: Ovidiu Gologan
Edit by: Iolanda Mintulescu, Dan Naum
Sound: Anusavan Salamanian, Valentin Tesa
Music: Theodor Grigoriu
Category: feature film
Genre: drama, war
Duration: 154 minutes
81,485 – Cinepub viewers
During World War I, Apostol Bologa (played by Victor Rebengiuc), a young man driven by romantic adventures, volunteers to enlist on the front lines to prove his love to his fiancée, Marta (played by Mariana Mihuț), that he is capable of rivaling the Hungarian ulans, only to find out that she has already moved on. On the Galician front, he displays great bravery, earning decorations and a promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
However, he is later called before a military court where he is convicted, despite his strong belief, and sentenced to death by hanging, for the actions of Czech sub-lieutenant Svoboda (played by Valeriu Arnăutu). After the execution, the new company commander, Captain Klapka (played by Liviu Ciulei), reveals to him the reasons why Svoboda attempted to desert.
From that moment on, Bologa starts experiencing pangs of conscience, and his quest for new arguments and justifications intensifies his restlessness, as the burden of guilt becomes unbearable. Learning that his regiment will be sent to the Romanian front, he decides to desert, but is wounded and hospitalized. Falling in love with Hungarian woman Ilona (played by Ana Szeles), the daughter of gravedigger Vidor (played by Laszlo Kiss), with whom he is billeted, Bologa breaks off his engagement with Marta during his convalescent leave. Shortly after returning to his unit, he is once again summoned before the military court.
This time, some peasants, considered spies because they were working their fields beyond the conventionally forbidden lines of the Austro-Hungarian army, are to be tried. Unable to bear the thought of being an accomplice in the condemnation of innocent people, Bologa decides to desert. He is captured, convicted, and hanged.
WHAT CRITICS SAY:
The film is an adaptation of Liviu Rebreanu’s novel, the first psychological novel in Romanian literature, which was inspired by a real event – the story of Emil Rebreanu, the writer’s brother and a non-commissioned officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, who was hanged in Ghimeș on May 14, 1917, while attempting to desert to the Romanian front. Initially, Șerban Cantacuzino was cast for the role of Apostol Bologa and filmed a few scenes. However, it was decided to replace him with Victor Rebengiuc.
The film is considered a pinnacle of Romanian cinematography, representing the culmination of Liviu Ciulei’s short film directing career. It was awarded the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965.
“The film’s cast is marked by courage, confidence, and great intuition. Victor Rebengiuc was a fortunate choice, first as a physical presence. His performance captured well the character’s confusion, the mixture of helplessness accumulated by Bologa, and in the final scene, the actor’s eyes delivered one of the best moments in the film.” – Ecaterina Oproiu, 1965 (Cinema).
“The lively movement of ideas, the sense of storytelling through images, the splendor of visual invention, and above all, the uninterrupted pulse of reality impose themselves here, inscribed in the meticulous realism of the environment and the accuracy of the character types.” – George Littera.
- Cannes Awards 1965
- Palme d’Or – Liviu Ciulei – Nominated
- Best Director – Liviu Ciulei – Winner