I met Alecu Solomon in Bucharest not long ago and as someone, who has followed his films (almost) from when he started, always admiring him and them, my natural question was: What is your next work? He sent me a link and as the premiere was some days ago at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival I can write about it. Here come my words and the director´s notes:
A film about a priest Arsenie Boca (1910-1989) in Romania… well if it had not been from the hands of Alecu, I would probably have dropped it. But the director – as few directors of today – has found his way(s) of making films and his personal tone, (also) this time with a lot of humour letting us viewers see how the film was made, with boom and camera(s) in the picture and the director being both the tour guide (read below) and commentator on a journey that also includes him searching for some answers in a world to which, or in which, he often feels alienated. The casted actors come out with their interesting stories as well and you bond with them and the director and Arsenie Boca, who (also) was an excellent painter as we see, not from a visit to the church, where his most famous works are but through replicas made for the film as the priest did not allow the pilgrims to enter as one of them had been dressed as Arsenie in another shooting for the film.
DIRECTOR’S NOTE: The film is based on a pilgrimage that I organized myself, after participating in many travels with Christian associations in the past 4 years. The observational rushes from these previous pilgrimages will be shortly introduced at the beginning of the film, setting the real circumstances and my troubles in finding a place in this world to which I feel so alienated. They are the trigger for a more fictionalized approach, that is the backbone of the film: a ready-made pilgrimage for which I did a casting with extras that are religious, love Arsenie Boca but have filming experience and all the traits that come with the aspiration of becoming „a film star”. During this pilgrimage, we travel to different places where Arsenie lived, places of worship, marketing and historical meaning. We read texts from the Securitate files on Arsenie, we reenact some of his miracles and we talk together about them. From time to time, I have separate, intimate conversations with the pilgrims, that give us a window into their lives and beliefs. The casting includes many generations, from the older Orthodox nostalgic about the communist times (?!) to the young New-Age healers, from the protestant preacher to the mystical medical assistant. Now and then people start singing religious chants or Tibetan handpan music. On the bus I serve as a travel guide, slipping info on Arsenie’s life and, mostly, his afterlife – the way the Church and the media have shaped his public posterity. Father Arsenie’s history is, first of all, the history of an image, an image that he has been carefully forging during his lifetime and that became a success story after he died. We pass along among the pilgrims Arsenie’s photos, the ones that he set-up himself, as well as the ones taken by undercover agents.
– website with trailer
Romania, Luxembourg, 2023, 96 mins.