In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Romanian Cinema

  • Introduction
  • Special Journal Issues and Edited Collections in English

Cinema and Media Studies Romanian Cinema
Constantin Parvulescu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0156


Until the second decade of the 21st century, scholarship on Romanian film has been written almost exclusively in Romanian. Its pioneering representatives were D. I. Suchianu and Ion Cantacuzino, who published their first books in the 1930s. Since Romania had not generated consistent cinematic output until the 1950s, its historical studies came out also late, in the 1960s. The year 1989 was another turning point in Romanian film historiography, spurring post-socialist reconsiderations, and so was 1996, when the celebration of one hundred years of Romanian cinema triggered the publication of several historical studies. Consistent international representation started in the late 2000s, prompted by the international visibility of the New Romanian Cinema (also known as the Romanian New Wave). Since then, English-language film magazines delivered reviews of every new Romanian production, and academic scholarship started to yield its first articles. Soon, interest in Romanian film traditions also surged (both in Romania and abroad), coupled with a concentrated effort of the Romanian state to promote its cinema, both new and old. Romanian film is still approached mainly in the framework of national cinema, but recent studies tend to broaden the perspective and employ comparative, transnational, intermedial, and media-theory perspectives.

Historical Background

The history of the Romanian cinema is discontinuous. The first Lumière presentations arrived in Bucharest as early as 1896 and spurred the interest of local audiences to see actualités recorded in their own county. For a year or so, Lumière-style films were the first films shot in Romania of Romanian sights and were meant to be shown (almost exclusively) in Romania. But soon, curiosity in these projections diminished. Romania’s appetite for domestic productions resurged in 1911, when the first narrative films, mainly melodramas, were made. A historical epic, titled Romania’s Independence, was produced the next year with great audience success. World War I interrupted national cinematic output again, and it took years for the industry to get back into business. The first interwar Romanian feature was made only in 1923, and production continued at a steady pace of a few films per year until the advent of sound. The institution of film criticism also emerged in this period. The extra costs of making talkies threw Romanian cinema back into silence in a time when a loyal cinema audience had been built in cities. In spite of the establishment of a Romanian film fund, the only remarkable production of the pre-socialist era remains the 1943 adaptation of I. L. Caragiale’s A Stormy Night (O noapte furtunoasă). The Romanian cinematic industry was reset by nationalization and centralization in the post-1948 era. The first postwar feature was the socialist-realist The Valley Resounds (Răsună valea, 1949). The building of the Romanian film studios at Buftea followed and a steady rise in national productions, which began again to decline only after 1989, with zero films made in the year 2000. But this anno zero was redeemed by the films of the New Romanian Cinema, among them Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (Moartea domnului Lăzărescu, 2005) and Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săpămâni și 2 zile, 2007). They received international recognition, and recent scholarship on Romanian cinema focuses primarily on the work of these two auteurs.

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