Friday, June 20, 2014

Queen of the Gypsies

Tabor ukhodit v nebo; drama, Russia, 1976; D: Emil Loteanu, S: Girgore Grigoriu, Svetlana Toma, Barasbi Mulayev, Ion Sandri Scurea

At the beginning of the 20th century, a gypsy waggon is travelling around the Tisza river. Horse thief Zobar is pursued by police officer who shoot and wound him while he was trying to steal another batch, but he is healed by a beautiful gypsy woman, Radda. When the wealthy Siladi asks Radda to marry him, she refuses, and he enables the police to raid the gypsy waggon in search for Zobar. Later, Zobar spends the night with Radda, but she leaves him alone by the river because she does not want to be bound by anything - instead, she chooses freedom. Zobar is caught and sentenced to death, but saved by his friends. He confesses his love to Radda, and then stabs and kills her. The others in the caravan then kill him.

"Queen of the Gypsies" is a welcomed attempt to show the culture, habits, customs and mindset of the often ignored Roma and Gypsy nations in Europe, yet, one should mention it right at the start, it never reaches the level of Kusturica. Director Emil Loteanu uses the travelling gypsy waggon as a pretext for great landscape images, equipped with the frequent scenes of horses on the meadow, the leitmotiv of the storyline, since they serve as a symbol for freedom - unconquered and wild. A few attempts at humor are refreshing, as well (at a market, a police officer asks a gypsy in a thick wool coat to take it off, since it is summer. The gypsy declines, saying he is "cold". As the coat is then taken off from him, the people discover he hid several stolen chickens under it). However, the storyline is comprised of half-characters whose actions and behavior make little to no sense, the 'down-to-earth' story is listless and rarely truly ignites, whereas the musical and dance numbers, though luckily reduced to a minimum, seem more like they came from Bollywood. The main love story between Zobar and Radda has a certain surreal charm to it, and as such it is a pity that it was so thinly developed, since the actress playing her, Svetlana Toma, really has potential. Unfortunately, this is all ruined by one of the dumbest endings ever that took the above mentioned theme of freedom in a completely misguided direction, thereby wrecking the film.


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