A Child of the Cosmos: “The Miracle of Tekir” – film review
by Magda Mihăilescu
After 15 years from that edition of the Clermont Ferrand Film Festival where I had been delighted to discover a young Romanian filmmaker who at that time was a student at the FAMU, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, through her excellent short film Dust and after 10 years since her debut in feature film with Ryna, a film that established both Ruxandra Zenide as a film director and Dorotheea Petre as an actress, here I am meeting Ruxandra with her latest film, The Miracle of Tekir, in a place where I expected less to find her: in a space of the magic, which is opposite to the harsh realism from her first film. I believe that her collaboration with Alex Iordăchescu (who co-wrote the screenplay and produced the film), an artist who is keen on creating a cinema that breaks the boundaries of the contingent world (see The Way Beyond) stimulated her taste for the strangeness of a topic that may seduce the viewers. For those who are willing to take into consideration this kind of an exercise which is less usual for the contemporary Romanian film production, The Miracle of Tekir is a film of the seduction, of being under a spell, not only because the heroine, Mara, believes in the beneficial mysteries of the place, in its hidden curing miracles. If it were so, we would only witness the story of a young woman who is convinced that the mud, a certain kind that only she knows about, is an incredible blessing for the women who want to get pregnant and who pays the price for what the community she lives in considers to be something evil. The bewitching I mentioned sets in the relationship of the viewer with the screen, with the photography (Hélène Louvart) that places us in a nature heavy with mystery, with restlessness: old, dried hills which may hide some muddy waterholes from whose gurgling, frightening cores, something might want to erupt. Or someone. The gurgling of the matter gives you chills. And everything is emphasized by the strange-lamenting music composed by Aïsha Devi. I happened to have watched the film in one of the days when I was finishing reading Mircea Cărtărescu`s “Solenoid”. A few words nested in my mind, a monumental description of the “sky above us burdened with its rich harvest of stars”, placed what I felt there, in the cinema room, in an equation that I had so often ignored. “Enough – the author continues – to remember what we so often forget, getting carried away with the joys and sufferings of life: that we are the children of the cosmos, living for a nanosecond on a speck of dust in the deep infinity of the night.” Maybe Mara knows and feels more than other people that she is a child of the cosmos and going back to the bewitching effect cast by the film, it is mostly regarding the creating of this heroine who is both vulnerable and strong, whose mystery we`re not able to understand till the end: beyond the mystery of the baby in her womb, is there something more that can`t be said, that can`t be confessed? All the characters that come near her define themselves in relation to her, and this She has one of the most fascinating and disturbing faces of the Romanian cinema: Dorotheea Petre. I can`t understand why our filmmakers don`t ask her to be part of their projects more often. I won`t stop appreciating this “amazing actress” as Monty Hellman called her at Cannesm who is “magnificent” in The Miracle of Tekir, as Giorgia Del Don has recently written in Cineuropa. Truffaut once said that there are some actresses that don`t even need a screenplay, all you need to do is look at them through the eye of the camera. Of course, he was exaggerating, but the mystery of the complicity of an actress with the camera is not less considerable. That is a quality of a talent that comes from afar. The way Dorotheea Petre looks, its intensity and mystery has different shades. Almost carefully counted. The angry fishermen, convinced that the witch besmirched the fish that won`t get in their fishing nets anymore, must face her defiance which is actually a fragile mask for her fears. We don`t see her as a humble woman not even in front of the village priest. Mara defends her secret, which sets the doubtful priest wondering. The film reaches a well crafted critical point when father Andrei (Bogdan Dumitrache) is introduced. He is soft-hearted, but he becomes resolute when the restlessness of a question corners him. “Do you believe in miracles?” he asks the old priest (with a Dostoyevskian name, Feodor) of a church near his village. I`m not referring to biblical ones.” To his anxiety and tormented thoughts, he old man gives a very grounded answer, guessing a possible attraction for that peasant woman: “Andrei, don`t be afraid to love.” We can guess that, from now on, the echo of these words will haunt this character, who is left alone in a crucial moment, on the sea shore, with his own doubts. Mara disquiets all the places she gets to. The fishermen banish her from the village, burn down her house. Andrei gives his priest clothes to the deacon and sets out to go find the woman. In the Spa of a fairly strange luxury hotel where Mara finds work, though mistrusted at first by the slightly scornful Victoria (Mirela Oprișor), she will trouble the order of the things as well. She is different from the other nurses, though for a while she tries to hide her pregnancy and the secret of the best mud. If when she goes searching for it she looks like any peasant going to work then, when she enters the modern parlors with the cup in her hands, she looks as if floating, chanting, officiating. But she is still afraid to say everything. Lili (Elina Löwensohn), the rich and arrogant foreigner who came with her gigolo (George Piștereanu) there to treat her infertility, will need a bit of time to fight her mistrust, to win her as her ally. And that is another turning point of the film: the relationship between the two women seizes the narration, it becomes its tense core. Though they have different cultural backgrounds, their relationship is one of an unexpected obedience: “You must do everything I tell you, no matter what…It is something you have to do alone. I`ll be here, don`t worry…Think of something beautiful, of something you love best in the world…” Mara commands to the hesitant Lili. They are alone under a sky that is not too protective, two steps from the mud that gurgles threateningly and each of them carries the mystery of her own womanhood. To the woman that came from afar, the puddle in which she immersed “smells like dead”. To Mara, daughter of that land and of its legends, “it smells only of the mud lake”.