Leopoldina Bălănuţă, the actress who wanted to evolve

                     The 2009 National Theatre Festival has come and gone. And, because it was feverishly preoccupied with the present, it forgot to remember the past. The 2008 edition that took place last year did not remember that, 10 years ago, the footsteps of Leopoldina Bălănuţă were heard for the last time on the floors of our theatres. Who knows, maybe some of us just do not have the time to commemorate those who are now living in the world of shadows.

                      Poldi[1], humble servant of the stage – something she had always wanted to be and was -, faded away in mid October 1998. She was an actress who lent her voice to the silence in poems and wished to change the world for the better.  Death came to her one late autumn day, when the world was minding its daily routine and Poldi was incessantly praising the beauty of being alive. Ovidiu Iuliu Moldovan would later confess: ‘It was a sick and beautiful autumn, with evenings that went on beyond midnight on the beach at Vama Veche. It was the last time Poldi ever saw the sea. She was lying on the sand that felt very much like a silky wave.  The sun was shining gently, caressing us with its rays. Now and then Poldi would throw herself in the water, swim or watch the sky. Afterwards she would pour her thoughts down on that strip of sand, telling me all about the joy of living. The last wish she had before dying was to gaze upon the sea one last time. A forewarning maybe? As a friend, I made haste to grant her this wish”.

                       She passed away after years of reciting poems, of giving different performances of the same part every single time she was on stage or in front of the camera. It happened after she had discovered freedom and faith in a period locked in chains; after having touched and frightened TV lovers as well as theatre-goers with her loudness and silence. It happened several decades after Poldi (a priest’s daughter, born in a little city in Vrancea) had graduated from The Institute of Theatrical and Cinematographic Art in 1957, where Marietta Sadova and Marcel Anghelescu were her professors. She made her debut in Bucharest in a play staged by Ion Cojar, where she personified Velea from Tatiana Sîtina’s ”Prima întâlnire.” She ended her debut (as she used to declare in many of her interviews, art was for her a form of godliness) with a role in ”O batistă pe Dunăre”, written by D. R. Popescu and directed by the same Ion Cojar for Bucharest National Theatre…

                       Art – “God’s messenger”

                       Leopoldina Bălănuţă chose to do film and theatre not because she wanted to inhabit her characters, but because she wished to let her characters – that come and go without ever being the same – inhabit her. In one of the interviews she gave for Viorica Ghiţă-Teodorescu (interviews which were gathered in a volume entitled ”Leopoldina Bălănuţă – şoapte şi lacrimi), the actress confessed that ”the greatest dream of my artistic life has been to never take my own personality for a stroll through the characters that were offered to me. I wanted to create an image as close to the character’s personality as I could, with a great effort of imagination. To find that which opposes them, rather than what draws them nearer to me had to be the supreme challenge.  It would be ideal if the process of a character’s embodiment never ended. I don’t like to say <<I am done! >> I would like to keep everything in that corner of the spirit where movement and evolution are still possible.” Those who have experienced her reading poems in some towns or recording in a studio know what this is all about. People who have seen her in plays by Caragiale, Ibsen, Ostrovski, Cocteau, Băieşu, in ”Trilogia antică” – or ”Livada cu vişini” staged by Andrei Şerban, in ”Antigona”, ”Raţa sălbatică”, ”Unchiul Vanea” or ”Doi pe un balansoar” – and remember the many movies she has starred in, know that there is an art to be an actor. There is a uniqueness that goes beyond the words that an actor utters; a uniqueness that the actress herself described as being ”the ultimate gift, for it has the strength to travel further on, to the land of the shadows. A unique personality is privileged, because it cannot be multiplied. Only God, in his great generosity, has thought of sending bits of himself among us in the shape of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Eminescu and Nichita. But every single time, these bits of God turn out to be solely artists. Only through them will we be seen by our cosmic guests. I have always thought of art as God’s divinity.”

                       The actress who wanted to make a change in the world

                       She was loved by both pretentious people and intellectuals or non-intellectuals hailing from the small towns that she loved and visited on her poetry tours. She dreamt of changing and confronting them with the beauty and truth that would set them free. “I have urged myself to join that group of people who want to change the state of the world they were born into”, confessed the actress in an interview published in ”Leopoldina Bălănuţă – şoapte şi lacrimi”. “I want that because my generation is confronted with a pathetic world, haunted by madmen who have substituted themselves for God and earth for hell. I sit and think with horror that there has never been a moment of peace on this earth from the day I was born. (…) What troubles me is that these madmen, who have decided our lives and destinies for us, have the strength of a virus. They infect the masses with hate and enmity. They seem to drown the world and people around them in their own lack of balance, tumours and foul stench.  I was thinking how right poor Tarkovsky was when he said, some days before his death if I’m not mistaken, that if God were to walk among us, he would die of a heart-attack. And he said another thing: <<God, I’ve grown tired waiting for you to come. >>

                       ”The eye of an artist is a small bit from God’s eye”

                       She acted with pathos both on and off stage. She assumed the noble pathos of being a meaningful poem. A poem that is uncomfortable for the lazy and self-indulgent souls. She also assumed the pathos of being, as Emil Botta once described her, ”a poem that I did not get to put down on paper.”

                       Today, her personality has a uniqueness that almost isolates her. It sends her to galaxies that are eternal and untouchable. Galaxies that bridle us, making us feel small and ashamed at the same time; because even if we are not Poldi, we have occasionally experienced the same thoughts, feelings and reactions that she experienced. Life has not been a part for her; it was the other way around and continues to be so. The actress’s lives go on, as countless and unfinished as her parts were. And the world goes about its own business, never really caring for more than a moment about Leopoldina Bălănuţă’s rhetorical question ”The eye of an artist is a small bit from the eye of God; how can you poke it with a picket?”; never realizing that it should ask itself a little less rhetorically ”How can you hit it with oblivion?” 

Translated by Ionita Ioana, MTTLC, 2nd year

[1] Poldi was a short variant for ”Leopoldina”;


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