The Rest Is Silence



Locarno International Film Festival

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Filmmaking hasn't changed much in almost 100 years if the events depicted in Nae Caranfil's enthralling period epic "The Rest Is Silence" are to be believed. Based on the true story of the making of a two-hour silent film titled "The Independence of Romania" in 1911, the colorful 140-minute production should be required viewing for moviemakers and movie buffs who wish to complete their cinema education.

Back then too, directors favored dreams over reality, producers wished to rule the roost, and investors -- in this case the king of Romania -- wanted to have their say in casting. It's a rollicking story told in splashy terms with boisterous performances and lots of tall tales.

Marius Florea Vizante plays Grigore, the nebbish son of a hero of the national theater who scorns motion pictures until his son actually gets a job making one. Having failed to make the grade as an actor himself, Grig is determined to make a film about the 1877 war against the Ottoman Empire that gave Romania its independence.

For backing, he turns to flamboyant industrialist Leon Negrescu (Ovidiu Niculesco) who funds artistic endeavors, often involving nude women, so long as he makes a profitable return. Problems arise when the man from Gaumont in France decides to film a quickie version of the same event. But Leon is more than a match for him, especially when King Carol I decides to put royal funds into the project.

There's a woman in the picture too, of course, a beautiful if flighty young actress named Emilia (Mirela Zeta) whom Grig first meets when she's posing naked in one of Leon's art classes. But Grig's pals from the National Theatre all join in, and thanks to the king, he also gains the services of the army, including the generals who fought the war.

Problems develop on location, however, when the generals disagree on precisely what happened, and it turns out that none of them had a clue what the Turks were up to.

Writer-director Caranfil aims high with this production and mostly carries it off. Cinematographer Marius Panduru creates grand images, and Laurent Couson's score enhances the picture's epic sweep. Vizante has a knockabout charm, and Zeta makes a strong impression as the ambitious actress. Best of all is Niculesco, who overcomes dubious tonsorial work to create a movie mogul to rank with the most celebrated and notorious.

Domino Film
Screenwriter-director: Nae Caranfil
Producer: Cristian Comega
Director of photography: Marius Panduru
Production designer: Calin Papura
Music: Laurent Couson
Co-producer: Alexander Etienne Hergan
Costume designer: Doina Levintza
Editor: Gelu Costache
Grigore: Marius Florea Vizante
Leon: Ovidiu Niculesco
Emilia: Mirela Zeta
Aristizza: Iona Bulca
Iancu: Gruia Sandu
Catargiu: Valentin Popescu
Anton: Nicu Mihoc
Raoul: Silviu Biris
Cameraman: Patru Gavril
Nutzu: Vlad Zamfirescu
Duffin: Samuel Tastet
Co. Gutza: Florin Zamfirescu
King Carol 1: Alexandru Hasnas
Running time -- 140 minutes
No MPAA rating