24 February 2013

Anna Széles

Hungarian, Romanian-born Anna Széles (1942 was a ravishingly beautiful actress, who worked with directors like Miklós Jancsó and Péter Bacsó. She also appeared in Communist musicals of the 1960’s and as a princess in East-European fairy tales of the 1970’s.

Ana Szeles
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 212/69, 1969. Photo: Balinski.

Communist Musicals
Anna (sometimes written as Ana) Széles was born in Oradea, Transylvania (Romania), in 1942. She took piano and ballet lessons and in 1961 she went to study at the Marosvásárhelyi Színművészeti Főiskola (Academy of Theatre and Film in Targu Mures). During the second college year she made her film debut in Bucharest, in the musical Vacanta la mare/Seaside Vacation (1963, Andrei Calarasu). This film was one of the East-European musicals featured in East Side Story (1997, Dana Ranga), a documentary about film musicals produced during the height of the Soviet bloc. Reviewer Mike at IMDb: “(Vacanta la Mare) is a rare gem. It belongs to the genre of Communist musicals. These musicals are mostly unknown in the West. That is a shame, some of them are worth watching.” Next she played in La vîrsta dragostei/At the Age of Love (1964, Francisc Munteanu). On the set she met actor Romanian actor Florin Piersic, but it took almost 9 more years before they fell in love with each other. Their relationship began on a long train ride between Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, when Piersic sent her love notes with the help of the train-porter. In 1975, they married and had a son, Daniel. They divorced in 1985, but they remained lovers for 5 more years, while he was living in Bucharest and she in Cluj.

Anna Széles
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 217/70, 1970. Photo: Progress.

Anna Széles
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Masterpiece of the Romanian Cinema
Anna Széles played the female lead in the romantic drama Padurea spânzuratilor/Forest of the Hanged (1965, Liviu Ciulei), which is considered one of the masterpieces of the Romanian cinema. It won the award for Best Directing at Cannes and also was nominated for the Palm D'Or. In the First World War, a Romanian officer (Victor Rebengiuc) in the Austro-Hungarian army (Romania's enemies), has to fight against his own people, and also falls in love with a Hungarian woman (Ana Széles). Reviewer Vincentiu at IMDb: “It is a story about war, love, duty and love but it is more. It is a poem in which light, acting and atmosphere are parts of a subtle description of a ordinary strange world.” In 1965, Széles graduated from the academy and started to work at the Kolozsvári Állami Magyar Színház (Hungarian Theatre of Cluj), a repertory theatre with performances in Hungarian, entirely subsidized by the Romanian Ministry of Culture. Széles’ first role there was Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our town. She also continued to play major roles in interesting films, such as Zodia Fecioarei/Virgo (1966, Manole Marcus), with Chris(tea) Avram, and Meandre/Meanders (1966, Mircea Saucan). She also appeared in popular comedies like Balul de sîmbata seara/The Saturday Night Dance (1968, Geo Saizescu), Vin ciclistii/The Cyclists Are Coming (1968, Aurel Miheles) and Canarul si viscolul/The Canary and the Snowstorm (1969, Manole Marcus).

Florin Piersic, Anna Széles
With Florin Piersic. Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 33 150.

Ana Széles
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Collection: Véronique@Flickr.

Beautiful Princess
A very popular genre of the East-European cinema at the time was the fairy tale. In 1970 Anna Széles appeared as a beautiful princess in Tinerete fara batrînete/Kingdom in the Clouds (1970, Elisabeta Bostan, Nicolae Codrescu). Paramount distributed this film in the US and Australia. The following year, she worked with famous director Miklós Jancsó at Égi bárány/Agnus Dei (1971) with Daniel Olbrychski. It is an allegory of the suppression of the 1919 revolution and the advent of fascism in Hungary. On TV, she co-starred with Mari Töröcsik in the mini-series Irgalom/Mercy (1973, György Hintsch). She played with Florin Piersic in the fantasy Elixirul tineretii/The Youth Elixir (1975, Gheorghe Naghi) and the comedy Eu, tu si Ovidiu/You, Me and Ovidius (1977, Geo Saizescu). Then there was an interval in her film career of ten years. In 1987, she returned to the screen with Piersic in the adventure film Masca de argint/The Silver Mask (1987 Gheorghe Vitanidis). Until 1989, Széles was a member of the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj. Then she moved to Budapest, Hungary, where she became a member of the Thália Színház (Thalia Theatre). She continued to appear in films, but only incidentally. Among her later Hungarian films are Sztálin menyasszonya/Stalin’s Bride (1991, Péter Bacsó), and the historical epics Honfoglalás/The Conquest (1996, Gábor Koltay) and Sacra Corona/Holy Crown (1999, Gábor Koltay) both based on true events of XI. century Hungarian history and starring Franco Nero. Széles’ roles in these films were only minor. She also appeared in supporting roles as an aunt or grandma on television, such as in És a nyolcadik napon/And on the eighth day (2009, Róbert Pajer). Anna Széles is now a grandmother and lives in Budapest, where she still appears on TV and in commercials.

Anna Szeles
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Scene from Tinerete fara batrînete/Kingdom in the Clouds (1970) in wich the hero fights a green witch. Source: TaylorHamKid (YouTube).

Sources: Cinemagia (Romanian), Ziarero (Romanian), Wikipedia (Hungarian and Romanian), and IMDb.

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