Nora: Feminine sensibility
It’s midnight; I shut my laptop and my eyes, but I remain with the mental image of a shot of a woman’s long, skinny legs as they skirt through the air during a series of morning exercises, while she is singing a wartime German love song. Some dark-colored pantyhose over a pink background – dusty, lying next to a blurry photo of a child, composing an allusive tableau that reclaims a different type of gaze – a feminine gaze that potentiates the mystery and volatility of its subject.
There is an aesthetic aplomb at play here, one which will not be equaled throughout the entirety of the film, but there is also a sensibility that gracefully encircles the biography of a woman that occupies several time planes within this provisional shot: the German melody and the photo add layers of memory, whereas her body is an installation of the present – the ritual bestows her with concreteness, and absolves her of age. What we discover in this introductory scene, but also, especially, later on, in both her monologues and her dialogues with filmmaker Carla Teahă and others, is a solar being that lives her fantasies to the fullest and, precisely due to this reason, ends up being pigeonholed into an insidiously ideological pattern on interpretation. And by this, I mean the eight-year-long publication ban that she received from the authorities of the communist regime. The accusation: “morbid eroticism”.
The documentary explores the memory of this ban, while framing the quotidian and regarding Nora in the very way that she offers herself up, in front of the camera, abounding in humor and sensuality, childish, young and old alike, living all her ages at the same time. I must admit that I have somewhat of a problem with the director’s reverential approach to the subject; I would’ve loved to see an approach that makes away with the borderlines of age, an eye that regards itself as equal. It would’ve been difficult, perhaps. Of course, if I were to make an exercise in empathy and sympathy, I can grasp some of the anxiety that may be felt in the presence of this canonical writer of Romanian literature, and I must applaud this step backward that the director makes, not only to aid in creating an area that is fertile for confessions but also to frame her within an image that doesn’t charge or objectify. On the other hand, no, I don’t believe that the female gaze can automatically avoid such pitfalls, and of course, my feminine sensibilities make me inclined towards applauding this type of representation.
The overview always proves to be recomforting: whether it’s captured during a melodramatic moment of voluptuousness, or in a histrionic pose, Nora’s presence doesn’t allow the documentary’s formal aspects to overpass her at any time. I hope that this film comes across as a revelation to all the mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and people who must navigate daily between reductive socio-political or biological roles. To end on a confession, I must admit that for me, Nora Iuga is an aspirational female figure, and I dream of a future in which her discourse about desire and sexuality is not seen as stunning or subversive, but rather, as outright common.
De ce mă cheamă Nora, când cerul meu e senin