Les États généraux du film documentaire 2008 Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Thomas Ciulei

Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Thomas Ciulei


Thomas Ciulei, Romanian-German cineaste, over the past fifteen years has been creating a remarkable documentary œuvre. While most of his films have been coproduced with Germany where he studied cinema, they all take place in Romania except the most recent which takes us into a village in Moldavia, a neighbouring country. In The Flower Bridge the filmmaker shares the daily life of a peasant family whose mother has left to work as a clandestine abroad to help improve her family's increasingly difficult daily lot. In a totally mastered style (supported by shooting in film to which he is attached) he accompanies the father's efforts to fill in the gap left by the departure. Under his direction, the day's activities follow relentlessly and each instant is choreographed by the filmmaker as it is meticulously directed. The virtuosity demonstrated shows above all his belief in the strength of a shot, of a sequence to communicate all the simplicity of a life, the sweetness and vigour of a gesture, the beauty of a face. And the direction is imagined with those he films, like an invitation to play, a spirit we can also find in Asta e, his previous film. Thomas Ciulei possesses a jubilation, a pleasure at the game which infects his characters, gives them another way to overcome situations which can sometimes seem a little desperate and, at the same time, allows him to make them beautiful. A clown is discreetly hiding behind the cineaste, his apparent seriousness is that of a Keaton. His cinema is based on a highly respectful and attentive relation revealed sometimes in a word or a look of those he is filming. As with Gratian, the old man who is rejected by the village under the pretence that he is a werewolf, but whom the film shows in all his beauty and grace, the monsters are not the ones labeled as such. In these films, people do not talk much, speech is welcomed, expected but we never feel that it is forced.
In Face Mania, this relation of trust allows him to receive like a gift Lena Constante's recital of the terrible years she spent as a political prisoner in the Romanian jails. She used words to escape madness, she enclosed her fears with words. In his very first film, Thomas Ciulei also picked up speech, the words of those who chose to remain in their Transylvanian village deserted by the majority of inhabitants (of German origin) who went into exile after the fall of Ceausescu. He also, for other reasons, had left Romania years earlier at the age of fourteen. In all his films, this exile resurfaces: whether you were rejected, or decided to stay, whether you were obliged to separate or invented an interior exile, bridges have to be built. The Flower Bridge was the symbol of closer ties between Moldavia and Romania after 1989. In Face Mania there is a long tracking shot on the bridge at night where the image is double, a perfect reflection in the river, an illusion. Lena Constante captured with words the worrying faces, then transformed her dreams into poems to store them in her memory, this dream now awakened by the words: “a meadow covered with flowers.”

Christophe Postic


Guests : Thomas Ciulei a aussi produit le film d’Alexandra Gulea, sa monteuse, God Plays Sax, the Devil Violin, regard pudique sur la vie dans un hôpital psychiatrique, projeté lors de la première séance. Débats en présence de Thomas Ciulei.