Possible Sounds of Early Cinema


1925, silent film, drama, runtime: 84 minutes
music: Dragoș Mărgineanu

A drama on the topic of religious intolerance, on the backdrop of a love story between an Orthodox Christian man, Matei Frunză, and a Jewish woman, Lelia, the niece of Manasse Cohen. The script is authored by Scarlat Froda (adaptation of the eponymous play by Ronetti-Roman), while the cinematographer is Vasile Gociu.

The film cast includes Romald Bulfinski as Manasse, Maria Ciucurescu as Ester, Iosif Kamen as Zelig Șor. The interaction of these three characters also structures the directorial outlook of this film, in which an essential element of the conflict is the clash of two understandings of life, one that is patriarchal, outdated, ossified into anachronistic traditions, and another, with liberal elements, modern. The director counterbalances the dramatic plot with a few witty characters, such as the poor, bohemian and humorous bargain maker Zelig Șor, or Ester, whose specific traits were highlighted by the great actress with comic resources perfectly adapted to cinema.

Jean Mihail (1896-1963), film director, scriptwriter, the author of the book “The Romanian Film of Yesteryear”, 1963. Alumnus of the Dramatic Art Conservatory in Bucharest (1919). Dedicated to the cinematographic art, he undertook study trips in Germany and France. Apprenticeship at the cinematographic studios in Vienna. He debuted in 1923, as assistant director, with the melodrama “The Gypsy Girl in the Alcove”, directed by Alfred Halm from Berlin. His debut feature film, “Sin”, premiered in 1924, and in 1925 he released “Manasse”, considered the film of the year. (…) What follows are numerous productions and other efforts and failures or abandoned projects, which however contributed to the evolution of Romanian film in each of its stages from the silent film years up until the ’60s, likewise making documentary films and action films, comedies and dramas, adaptations or films based on original scripts. Should also be mentioned the award achieved with the documentary “Rustic Rhapsody” at the International Film Festival in Cannes, in 1946. (Călin Căliman, “The History of Romanian Film 1897-2017”, EuroPress, 2017)