On Socialist Eroticism. Building and Subverting Propaganda in Romanian Cinema Before 1989

Claudiu TURCUȘ


The official discourse of the communist era displayed an ideological resistance towards representations of corporeality with the aim of desexualising the collective imaginary. This was mainly because eroticism was associated with an exclusively Western phenomenon and regarded as a symptom of sheer decadence. If this taboo could be relatively easily flouted in literature (through the suggestive power of words), in cinema, eroticism could contextually convey a form of subversive politicized sexuality. Often by reference to post-war Polish and Czechoslovakian cinema, the Romanian cinema of the 1970s attempted to legitimize the representation of eroticism through the rhetoric of emancipation. Unfortunately, for the Communist Party, emancipation meant leveling rather than disinhibiting individuals. This paper reconstructs from the perspective of the communist propaganda not only the latter’s ideological motivations for prohibiting erotic representations, but also its subliminal refusal to accept such representations as relevant cultural and existential manifestations for the utilitarian project of socialism. In addition to this, this paper embarks on an analysis of several Romanian films of the 1960s-1980s, whose somber and subversive outlook on socialism was predicated, to some extent, on a depiction of raw eroticism, understood as an alternative manifestation that could counter the effects of socialist “humanism”.

Keywords: Romanian cinema, socialism, eroticism, Nicolae Ceaușescu, propaganda, subversion, Lucian Pintilie, Mircea Daneliuc.