From the retrospective: Soviet blockbuster “Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven”

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    Foto: screenshot/mojtv.hr

    In the twenties of the last century, the Soviet Union had a variety of cinematography that offered the world different film theories, as well as styles of filming. Perhaps the most important directors were Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov who, with their theories about the montage of film attractions and insistence on documentarism as a revolutionary form, enriched the world film theory. But in the same period there was another very successful director, Alexander Dovzhenko. His style was not as formal as the one by the two above mentioned, but the focus was on the aesthetic view of the landscape, symbolism, and staging of the authentic life of a peasant.

    The Soviet film director, Emil Lotenau, under the influence of Dovzhenko, is a director of the film, “Gypsies are Found Near Heaven”. For him it is important to present  albeit a very romanticised way of life, a mystical landscape and Romani culture. However, Lotenau, although pointing to aesthetics of cadres like Dovzhenko, still focuses, unlike Dovzhenko, mostly on the song quality. The music of this film is at its highest level, including Lotenau’s collaboration with composer Eugen Doga.

    This Soviet blockbuster was premiered in 1976 and was remembered as one of the most popular Soviet cinematography achievements. According to official records, during the original distribution in the cinemas all over the Soviet Union, 64.9 million tickets were sold. In English language this film has two titles: “Queen of the Gypsies” and “Gypsies are Found Near Heaven” and the story is based on the short story “Makar Chudra” by Maxim Gorky .

    The main plot of the film is the love of a Roma woman Rada (Svetlana Toma), a young and beautiful clairvoyant who easily wins men’s hearts due to her beauty, however refuses any kind of relationship because it would inhibit her freedom which she values so much, and the horse thief Loiko Sobar (Grigore Grigoriu).

    The film begins with a dialogue between two older Roma, in which one complains to the other about today’s Roma who sell horses for gold, emphasising the sentiment that they are a people who do not want wealth or love, but freedom. This sentiment pervades throughout the film, and the two protagonists made a mistake not sticking to this rule.

    The first encounter between Loiko and Rada is when he wounded avoids a certain death, and she cures him with magic moon dust. Staging of their love is extremely stylised. Whenever they meet there is silence, only gentle music accompanies their encounter, and the exterior lightening always becomes more intense.

    Aside from the fact that Rada has magical drinks, she also possesses telekinetic abilities, so when the frustrated driver of a local landowner-nobleman Antol Siladi (Ion Sandri Scurea) tries to run Rada and her friends over, she stops the carriage with her thoughts. Nobleman Siladi is in love with Rada, but she repeatedly refuses him. At the end of their failed romance, Siladi offers the entire Romani tribe to divide his great fortune among themselves, but Rada still refuses him, and the rest of the tribe is not at all upset about it, but consider Siladi’s offer as something that would ruin their freedom.

    When she refuses him, Siladi asks Rada where she is going, and she answers that she is going to the end of the world and back. When he asks her why, she says the reason is just to go there and come back. He then, nervously asks what kind of people they are and what they want. She replies that they want nothing but the road.

    From such sequences, it is obvious that the film is in complete disagreement with the problem of poverty and systemic inequality with which the Roma in reality have to bear and shows the tendency of mystification of something that is essentially the result of unfair politics.

    The film emphasises the bond between love and death, Eros and Thanatos. Loiko is constantly running away from death only to encounter Rada randomly. A random encounter is more important than causality.

    After Loiko escapes hanging, he encounters Rada, and the landscape around them is a foggy lake that leaves the impression of otherworldly. The instrument accompanying the scene is the harp and a female choir is singing. Loiko tells Rada that two of his companions who steal horses with him are dead and now it is his turn but she ignores his words and is dedicated to her cards where she can see that their roads always meet and will meet in the future as well and then she decides to give herself to him. Rada is not interested in the world in its physical regimes, everything she wants to know she can see in the mystics of her cards, in palm reading and other supernatural practices.

    There is a certain ontological difference between the Roma and the rest of the population, which is most researched within the relation between Rada and Siladi. While the rest of the population is facing the cause and effect, the Roma population is facing the case. While the rest of the population is interested in scientific medicine, the Roma are treated with magical dust. While Siladi appreciates money and security, Rada appreciates freedom.

    At the very end of the film, Loiko comes before Rada and her father asking them for her hand, but she refuses. Both of them say that they are too free to be in a relationship, but that they cannot live without one another, however Rada still decides on her freedom. Loiko, in despair, plunge the knife into her chest, and Rada’s father then kills him.

    Death is the only way out of that love story because they are accustomed to freedom, and at the same time they are too passionate to live without love. This contradiction is developing until the moment when the passion in the conflict crucifies them. But then, the sun lights upon the scene, symbolising that the light has taken them. Gypsies are found near heaven because they are the only honest ones, living in harmony with their emotions that drag them from one side to the other, and when emotions decide to take them to the opposite sides, they die.

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