Friday, July 29, 2011

Honourable Mention: Vlad Ţepeş

Vlad Ţepeş was a film from 1979, directed by Doru Natase and was, without doubt, a communist propaganda film designed to instil a national pride through a historical biopic. That said, the history depicted was probably closer to the historical truth as any other film about Vlad Ţepeş (Stefan Sileanu) and, unlike the US effort Dracula, the Dark Prince, this didn’t so much as flirt with the legend of the vampire.

So, why look at it here? After Stoker borrowed a name for his character and, more tellingly, after the work of McNally and Florescu, who popularised the idea that Stoker based his character on Ţepeş, the identities of Dracula have become inextricably linked in the Western mind. Whilst Stoker did only borrow a name I think it worth including material about (the historical) Ţepeş here, if only to make the point that the connection between the two is casual at best.

Stefan Sileanu as Vlad Ţepeş
The film looks at Vlad’s second rule (and the only one of any length) and begins in 1456 and what strikes you as you watch the film is that, whilst Vlad uses an under-current of cruel punishment to shape his country he is actually portrayed in a positive light. Let us take the story that Vlad threw a banquet for the poor and disabled and then locked them in the hall and burned it to the ground. This occurs in this but the film also informs us that these beggars are also part of a network of thieves. It suggests that Vlad disguised himself as a beggar and sat with them, that he and his men observed and pulled out any genuine person before locking the criminal element in and burning the building – was it a moral act, not at all, but the distinction that has been added makes it possible for the character to carry more sympathy.

The film makes it clear that impalement was a common punishment – but one reserved for the lowest of the low. Vlad makes it the only punishment and distinguishes between boyar and riff-raff only by the height of the stake. We are left in no doubt that the Germanic merchants, whose monopoly grip was wrenched off Wallachia by Vlad, went out of their way to ensure that exaggerated and false stories were spread to try and turn Hungary against Vlad.

This is a very long film, but it is an excellent biopic, offering a different view of Ţepeş and giving us insight into why he is still considered a national hero in his homeland. The imdb page is here.


Dirgesinger said...

Thought it was from 76. I have seen it and found it to be really cool. Present day Romanians obviously see Vlad as one of their greatest ruler and holy defender of their land, and the chronicles that say sh*t about Vlad have no historical proof.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Dirgesinger, thanks for the comment - I took the date from imdb and so it might be wrong

Dirgesinger said...

Of course I might err as well:) I was happy to see something here that i have also seen - most of the things you mention are great but i don't have the chance to see:)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Glad I could put something up you've seen then :)

R.Kranz said...

I believe the film was released in 1979.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

R Kranz - as said above I took the date from IMDb. When I wrote the piece they gave the later date as the release date. IMDb has, I see, been amended to 79 and I have amended accordingly. Thanks for mentioning or I wouldn't have checked.