Romania 1964 • 157 minutes • Romanian with English subtitles • Romanian title: Padurea spanzuratilor
Plus Q&A with lead actor Victor Rebengiuc & actress Mariana Mihut
Script: Titus Popovici; based on Liviu Rebreanu’s novel of the same title
Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Liviu Ciulei, Ana Szeles, Gyorgy Kovacs, Andrei Csiky, Gina Patrichi, Mariana Mihut, Emeric Schaffer, Stefan Ciubotarasu, Emil Botta
Best Director in Cannes 1965
In 2010, the World Cinema Foundation released a restored version of this movie on 35 mm, as part of their restoration projects.
Forest of the Hanged (Romanian: Pădurea spânzuraților) is a memoir of the First World War, located in Transylvania, starring Victor Rebengiuc and directed in 1964 by Liviu Ciulei (1923 – 2011). The film was based on the novel of the same name by Liviu Rebreanu, which was written in 1922, and is a meditation about Rebreanu’s brother, Emil, who was hanged for espionage and desertion in 1917.
Made the year before Nicolae Ceauşescu took leadership of the Communist Party and began his long dictatorship, Forest of the Hanged explores the issues of nationality and identity which were at play in the Romania of that time, and which, throughout Transylvania and the Danube Delta, had their roots in the conflicts of the First World War and the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1916, Apostol Bologa, (Victor Rebenguic) is an officer in the Habsburg Army. He's determined to do his duty, but he also wavers between the rules of Habsburg dominion, and finding his own way through the ferment of struggle around national identity. The issue narrows down to one pressing decision – to stay or to desert? Bologa’s inner struggle comes to a climax when he falls in love with the daughter of a Hungarian peasant, and is also appointed head of a court martial, trying twelve Romanian peasants for cultivating their fields in the war zone.
Conceived in 1964, the film returns to many of the issues which had shaped Romania in previous years, but the issues explored in Forest of the Hanged and which define the politics of the movie, are once again, in 2014, not only relevant to the commemoration of the First World War, but also to the current politics of the region.
Shot in black and white, Forest of the Hanged became the first Romanian film to achieve wide international recognition. At Cannes 1965 Ciulei won Best director for this film, and Victor Rebengiuc cemented his position as Romania’s leading (and best loved) actor.
With Forest of the Hanged, RFF 2014 continues its tradition of blending the presentation of new and innovative film, with the display of important classics. Uniquely, Victor Rebengiuc is the Romanian actor whose career spans both ends of the spectrum, and who has also been an important visitor, returning year after year to support RFF with his presence. This year he is returning to the Festival for a rare screening of this classic Romanian movie. He will be joined by his life partner, actress Mariana Mihut (also playing in Forest of the Hanged).