15 August 2002 | alexdiaconu
A larger than life epic movie
The historical facts:
Mihai Viteazul was a Romanian ruler that reigned in the small principality of Wallachia between 1593 and 1601. In 1600 he bedazzled Europe by uniting Wallachia with Romanian-speaking Moldavia and Transylvania, for which he is hailed as Romania's national hero. It all sounds ferry tale-ish, but it isn't. Mihai was too ahead of his time. He had the guts to go to war with three empires (Turkish, Austrian and Polish) and found his death when he trusted one of them. But his accomplishment forged a landmark in Romanian history.
First, it's the battle scenes. They don't come bigger than these and nobody can't take that away from Nicolaescu. He is THE master! Back then, when a movie of such girth was made in Romania, everybody got into it, from the head of state to the Army, so sky was the limit.
I think the grandest scene of the movie is the one depicting the Turkish army in the marshes of Calugareni on August 13 1595. On that day, the all-mighty Ottoman Empire, in its heyday at that time, poured 120,000 soldiers into Wallachia to conquer it. Imagine filming that! Nicoleascu shot from a helicopter. It started from the back, with the scattered extras forming the rear guard and gradually progressing towards the front. The scale is huge and mind you, he actually used that amount of people, not the CGI tricks of "Gladiator". Just think of the props and coordinating those guys on a hot day of summer in the middle of a swamp.
On the other side, as in every portrayal of a legendary figure, the hero hasn't the least of flaws: he is always brave (actually Mihai Viteazul means Michael the Brave), honest, nothing gets by him, always gives a moralizing speech before the battle yada yada. Man, didn't guys like Mihai or William Wallace ever had the slightest trace of egocentrism ? In that respect, there is another movie about Mihai Viteazul, called Buzduganul Cu Trei Peceti (The Mace With Three Seals), in which the hero actually has feelings, flaws and fears. Of course, it's directed by someone else.
At times, the acting is childish, especially in face-offs, like badly rehearsed lines of a play. When it involves a third party, e.g. a soldier telling Mihai that one of his subordinates has just arrived, I can't help myself laughing at the poor timing of the actors. Oh, and it's always the same thing with Romanian scripts: no matter whether the character is a farmer or the Austrian Emperor, he always uses the same old precious and dusty lingo, something like saying "It gives me great pleasure to gaze upon your look" instead of plain "Oh I'm so happy to see you".
All in all, I think 'Mihai Viteazul' is a good movie by most standards. It's the Romanian movie most seen outside its borders and a must-see within.