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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vlad Tepes (1979/80, Romanian)

Director: Doru Nastase
Cast: Stefan Sileanu
Genre: History, War

Born in 1431, Vlad the Impaler is one of the most intriguing figures in medieval history—more so for his title of ‘Count Dracula’ on which Bram Stoker based his famous novel.

Romania of oldKnown for his unmatched tyranny and stories that cropped up around it, Vlad turned into a legend for the world. Yet, no accurate account of Vlad the Impaler exists. If some brand him a downright sadist tyrant, then others respect him as a hero/leader who brought together a warring nation (Wallachia of old, merged into modern Romania now) against the mighty Turkish forces.

This film shows the heroic/patriotic/eccentric side of Vlad who ultimately, like a dark knight, took the fall for his country. He did all the dirty work—used the cruelest of methods to reform the nation that was being eaten away from the inside by power hungry Boyars (a Romanian rank of aristocracy), defied the Church, and rid the country of thieves, beggars, smugglers, and money launders. 

In six years of his reign, he made his country so free of corruption that it is said a gold cup openly kept in the middle of town won’t be touched by anyone. He has been shown as a devout Christian too and his ultimate goal was same as of the Church. However, their methods to achieve the eventual goal were poles apart—Church insisted on using ‘love’ whereas Vlad used ‘fear’ highhandedly. 

He used his same fear tactics in defeating an overwhelmingly large army of Ottoman Empire’s Sultan. For a win/country, he was someone who would set aside morality and ethics. This is exactly what he did to the immense Turkish army—poisoned all water wells in outskirt villages, hit the depleted enemies with surprise attacks at night, instilled more fear in them by festering their path with impaled dead carcasses of murdered enemy soldiers—and got the psychological edge. The thirsty/hungry army couldn’t take this anymore, Sultan realized this man’s horrors know no limit and he, eventually, decided to cut short his campaign.  

‘Vlad Tepes’ (tepes means spikes and his nick name came from the fact that Vlad use to impale the criminals on spikes as punishment) shows the first half of Vlad’s life, rather a part of it as his childhood hasn’t been shown but only referenced once, briefly. The second half of his life, his recapturing of throne, and ultimate death haven’t been dealt with in the film.      

I am not a qualified historian to judge the authenticity of the film but it seems like a very honest effort—one that shatters many previously held false beliefs.

And finally some trivia! Vlad’s father was Count Dracul and in Romanian added ‘a’ meant ‘son of’. Hence, he came to be known as Count Dracula.

This film had been in my watch list for a while and what I saw really enhanced my experience of world cinema. Highly recommended, specifically to history buffs. Do watch out for Stefan Sileanu, he gives a powerful performance as the Count.  

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  1. Not much on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0141966/

    But here's a site dedicated to the almost mythical man: http://www.vladtheimpaler.com/


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