Caravan Paradise: 'Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven' Retrospective
A Mixture of Different Genres Into One Colorful Experience
I haven’t seen too many foreign films but there’s one I saw for both research and personal reasons. As a fan of Romani culture, I couldn’t let it pass by. The film is called Gypsies are Found Near Heaven, also known as Queen of the Gypsies, a drama film from 1975 and directed by Emil Loteanu. While a drama film, it has very minor fantasy elements.
The film’s plot follows the horse thief Loiko Sobar. Sobar gets injured and meets a beautiful but mysterious Romani woman named Rada, who heals him. Sobar becomes completely infatuated by Rada and attempts to impress her by stealing a white mare for her as a gift. At the same time, nobleman Antol Siladi, who also encounters Rada, falls in love with her and attempts to win her love with his fortune.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is by far one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. The colors are a little washed out but the visuals are still vivid and bright. The settings for the film include a small town, grassy fields with rivers and forests in the background, along with taking place at Romani caravans. Each stand out greatly and are focused upon which makes them feel like characters.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Romani were nomadic travelers. They never stayed in one place for long. They occasionally stopped in towns for temporary jobs and supplies, but were known for their dances and songs. There’s a lot to their story but for the film’s sake it does an excellent job summing up their lifestyle. Several shots shows the camps and how they go about day to day life.
There are several misconceptions about the Romani people. One of which is that they have mystical abilities, such as fortune telling and placing curses on those they don’t like. Being a minor fantasy, the film goes into some detail about their supernatural qualities. The way Rada heals Sobar early on with a special plant and invoking a chant which near instantly makes him feel better is one. Another is when Sobar mentions that he and his caravan drunk moon dew, which he says makes them bullet resistant.
Loiko Sobar is played by Grigore Grigoriu. He's known as a traveling horse thief who occasionally visits his camp. He apparently learned several things in his travels, such as different languages. As soon as he meets Rada he becomes completely fixated on her. He finds her camp and immediately hits it off with her people, especially the elders. They see him as a valuable ally due to his knowledge. After spending more time with Rada he decides to steal a white mare for her as a gift which does get him into trouble.
Rada is portrayed by Svetlana Toma. She’s somewhat portrayed as having a mystical persona as she can heal and make others fall in love with her. She lives in her camp with her father, an old soldier named Danilo, played by Vsevolod Gavrilov. Rada shines brightly in most of the scenes she appears in. She carries with her elegance, but at the same time she’s very sexual and likes to tease those who she’s infatuated with, or who’s infatuated with her.
The great nobleman Antol Siladi, played by Ion Sandri Scurea, carries himself like a gentleman in most of his appearances. He’s very charismatic in his demeanor, which is easy to see as to why he’s respected. He meets Rada and her company while riding through town one day, even allowing them to ride with him. He attempts to woo her a few times though she always rejects him. When he ask her what does she want, she responds that she just wants the open road, which completely crushes him. The look in his eyes gives off exactly how he feels, a powerful but broken man who can never have who he desires. While Siladi doesn’t appear as often as the other main characters, he makes his presence known when he does appear.
Borislav Bronduko portrays Bucha, the comic relief character. He lives in Rada’s camp but quickly befriends Sobar after Sobar came to his rescue. While he obeys Rada, Bucha does warn Sobar not to get to close to her due to her supernatural effect on men. As Sobar visits his camp, he runs into his beautiful younger sister Rusalina, played by Nelli Volshaninova, who too drank the moon dew and is also resistant to gunfire.
While somewhat minor, the film shows some of the prejudice the Romani faced. After Sobar steals the white mare, local authorities raid his camp and destroy their belongings over a fire. While they stay strong at first, it’s only when authorities threaten to kill the camp’s horses that Sobar’s own father turns him in to protect the others.
After escaping his captors Sobar runs back to Rada’s camp and completes his promise of giving her the white mare. The two bond further to the point where they prepare to get engaged, well…under certain circumstances of course.
The music in the film is unbelievable. Most of the music is classic Romani folk songs, a single playing guitar and singing. There are actually quite a number of songs, to the point where the film sometimes feels like a musical. They’re all amazing and perfectly choreographed.
Overall Gypsies are Found Near Heaven is an excellent drama film that combines fantasy, romance, and musical numbers along with beautiful scenery. The Romani culture is so rich and diverse that this article doesn’t even scratch the surface, but if you want a taste of Romani culture, along with a beautiful story then this film should fill the hole.
One of the Songs From the Film
Questions & Answers
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