Documentary: Mircea Eliade – his name, his destiny (2002)

Distributed by Chip Taylor Communications, 2 East View Drive, Derry, NH 03038; 800-876-CHIP
Produced by Angela and Dan Jelesco
Directed by Director n/a
VHS, color, 88 min (dubbed in English)

This production is an overview of the life and work of the late scholar, Mircea Eliade (1907 –1986). Perhaps best known to librarians for his work as editor of an encyclopedia of world religions, he was also a novelist and a scholar of the highest magnitude. This recording, which does tend to be somewhat hagiographic in tone and content, focuses on Eliade’s study of Hinduism and how that influenced his own view of religion. For him, religion was at the center of his existence, if not the core of all human knowledge. The “sacred’ was in all things. This influence on Eliade has in turn influenced much of Western religious thinking, at least in the mainstream, since before the Second World War. This documentary begins and, in essence, ends with remarks made at his memorial service in 1986. In between we are presented a chronological overview of his life from his birth in Romania, study in India, exile in Paris after the War, and his years on the faculty at the University of Chicago from approximately 1956 until his death. Most of the production reviews his work during these last thirty years. An unseen narrator gives context as well as commentary throughout the recording. We are shown images of places where he lived as well as family photos and archival film. Interspersed are numerous interviews with friends, relatives, and colleagues from Romania, France and the United States. Among the latter, we are treated to reminiscences by Arsavir Acterian, Saul Bellow, Emil Cioran, among others. All these speak in their native tongue with a translation dubbed over. All are identified. There is little music and the sound and picture quality are always clear. Sometimes there are extended visual shots with no sound, which may be disconcerting to some. This work is a nice, though not very deep, introduction to the theological/philosophical work of Eliade. Although high school students would get some use from this production, it would probably be more useful in an undergraduate college course that examines religion or even philosophy or in a public library.