The Romanian director Valentin (Vali) Hotea is not new to the film scene. He made his debut in the 1990′s with his short film The Big Adventure(Marea Aventura). This movie depicts with stark frankness and a picture-perfect, photographic style a young couple having an affair. It does not make a statement about love, nor does it deliver any kind of moral lesson about infidelity.
The Big Adventure
The affair between the young protagonists is as intense as it is short-lived. Hence the irony of the title, since the so-called “big adventure” turns out to be completely insignificant. In fact, right after making love, the couple doesn’t even seem to like each other and can’t wait to leave.
Vali Hotea explains that the story “was inspired by some events that me and my film school friends lived at the same age, during our youth. We strung these stories together”. He recalls with fondness and nostalgia those film school days during the early 1990′s, stating that “for me the entire school experience was a beautiful adventure, which brought me the first award I ever won, at Costinesti. For this I thank Radu Ionescu, Radu Muntean, and Max Lemnij“. What is perhaps most remarkable about The Big Adventure, other than its freshness and honesty, is the way it oozes sensuality without indulging in either explicit eroticism or sentimentality in its depiction of a romantic liaison:
The Big Adventure won the budding Romanian director the Arte TV Prix Poitier in France in 1994. Continuing in this continental tradition, perhaps the most reminiscent of French culture is Vali Hotea’s short film Hot Snow(Zapada Fierbinte), produced in 2000 by TVR Cinema. Based on a screenplay by Stefan Dimitriu, Hot Snow was produced by the TVR Film Studio, under the leadership of Dan Necsulea, which gave many new film directors the opportunity to produce their first films. This movie strikes me as a contemporary rendition of Diderot’s famous eighteenth century novel, The Nun (La Religieuse, 1796). However, while Diderot’s novel unmasks the hidden corruption of the seemingly pure cloister life, Vali Hotea’s movie does just the opposite. “What attracted me most,” Vali Hotea states, “was the contrast between what we considered the constraints of this religious life and the playful glee of the nuns. So this title is an oxymoron, in which snow becomes ”hot,” like a wave of warm water by which the young nuns allow themselves to be caressed.”
Hot Snow depicts in a characteristically artistic and photographic style the freshness and innocence of the nuns, from the youngest and most inexperienced to the oldest and most jaded. Viewers witness the young nuns carry the casket of their beloved Mother Superior through the woods, in the middle of a snowy winter day. Initially the group of women appear dejected and serious, as befits such a somber occasion. Little by little, however, they are awakened to the sensual beauty and delight of life. The younger ones begin to frolic in the glistening snow with a childlike innocence. While an older nun berates them for their “inappropriate” conduct, even she, by the end of the movie, is touched by their joie de vivre, as are the viewers. The movie, once again, doesn’t deliver any moral–nor amoral–message about the religious life. It is rather a celebration of life even in the most seemingly austere places.
Recently, Vali Hotea has been awarded a large prize by the National Center for Cinematography (Centrul National al Cinematografiei) for his upcoming film about life in communist Romania, called Roxanne by the Police. This movie is of particular interest to me, having recently published my own novel on the subject, Velvet Totalitarianism (Intre Doua Lumi, Curtea Veche Publishing, 2011). Vali’s new movie is inspired by true events during the communist era in Romania, a few years before the revolution. After dedicating on Radio Free Europe (Radio Europa Libera) the song Roxanne by the popular rock group The Police , Vali–who was then a highschool student–received “a visit” from the Secret Police (Securitate).
The rest of the story, however, is pure fiction. The main plot of the film takes place twenty years later, in 2009, when the protagonist finds out who turned him to the Securitate and that he has a child about which he didn’t know. Rather than resuscitating the communist era under the Ceausescu regime, however, Vali Hotea states that this movie is more about “the consequences of that epoch in today’s world. It’s a movie about love, betrayal and duplicity”. Far more than a period piece, this movie will be a slice of life–and of history–that focuses on universal themes, similar in style to the unforgettable German classic, The Lives of Others (2006).
The Lives of Others
The leading lady in the film will be played by Diana Dumbrava, a talented actress that has won, in 2003, the prize The Silver Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and received a nomination for “best actress” at the 2004European Film Academy Awards. The movie will be released sometime in 2013 (Vali can’t tell us yet the precise date yet).
Artistic, sensitive, understated, photographic and delving into the depth of human lives and emotions, Vali’s movies are bound to capture our attention, hearts and imaginations. Vali Hotea is a rising star in European cinema, where Romanian film directors have been shining for years.
Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com