Scenes of lesbianism, substance abuse and cross-dressing. Glissando, the controversial film starring Ștefan Iordache and Tora Vasilescu that managed to pass the communist censorship.

Under communism, Romanian films passed through a rather harsh filter, often being censored or even banned if they didn’t meet the ideals.

Although filmmakers often tried to “salt and pepper” their films with various more or less curtained information, the watchful eyes of the authorities of the Socialist Republic rarely missed anything.

Quite simply, before the Revolution, controversial information that might in one way or another have put the regime in a bad light could not have escaped in cinemas or on television.

Often, censorship went so far that even the most innocuous scenes were absurdly removed from films if they seemed inappropriate to a Party elder.

Scene from the Romanian film Glissando - in the picture - Tora Vasilescu and Ștefan Iordache
Scene from the Romanian film Glissando – pictured: Tora Vasilescu and Ștefan Iordache

Glissando, the film inspired by a science fiction novel written by Cezar Petrescu

The above also applies to the film Glissando, directed by Mircea Daneliuc.

Glissando was inspired by a fantasy novel called Man in a Dream, written by Cezar Petrescu in 1925. However, despite the “inspiration”, Daneliuc seems to have used the science fiction novel as a pretext so that he was allowed to make this film. The screenplay strayed quite far from the original story, relying largely on the director’s artistic vision.

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The result was, without fail, one of the most controversial films in Romanian cinema before the Revolution.

In case you’re curious, Glissando had a select cast that included Tora Vasilescu, Ștefan Iordache and Ioan Fiscuteanu, among others.

The film tells the story of Ion Theodorescu (played by Ștefan Iordache), a young man with a fine education but a passion that leads him to perdition. He ends up losing his entire fortune in a card game.

In general, his life is marked by casinos and fleeting, often one-night stands.

Reaching the height of despair, Ion quickly becomes obsessed with a portrait of a woman he thinks looks a lot like his mother.

Basically, the film has two distinct “plates”. While in the first instance you get to see a glimpse of the “depraved” bourgeoisie of yesteryear, pre-communism, in the second part you witness the main character’s mental purgatory – a kind of final stage of decay in the circles of hell, if you will.

glissando-film-roman-communism-controversy-intersex
Scene from the Romanian film Glissando

Glissando passed the watchful eyes of the communists, despite controversial scenes

Obviously, filmmaker Mircea Daneliuc insisted as much as he could on making his film the way he wanted it and the way he felt about it, and especially on not mutilating it too much or at all.

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It should be mentioned that the most controversial part of this film is the very end, where scenes involving cross-dressing, cocaine snorting and lesbianism can be seen. Since, at that time, Article 200 still existed in Romania (the prohibition by law of sexual relations between people of the same sex), transvestitism and lesbianism were not looked upon favourably, as was the case with drug use.

The director was summoned to alter scenes that did not fit the communist vision, but refused, so he handed in his party card.

By some miracle, however, his film managed to pass the Communist rigors unscathed. A change was made, admittedly. In the film, you can hear, at one point, the line “Jid*nule!”. This has been replaced by “Antihristule!”. A minor compromise for a satisfactory result, one might say.

Finally, Glissando premiered at the “Patria” cinema in Bucharest on 24 September 1984.

The Romanian film Glissando should not be confused with the 2002 film of the same name by Chip Hourihan.

In the case of the latter film, the scan is about a fifteen-year-old boy, his mentally challenged father, and the young girl who comes between them. The action is set in a small Arizona town in the early 1970s.

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