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Liviu Sandulescu Carturan review


Carturan | 2019 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

Carturan | 2019 Warsaw International Film Festival Review

Pray the Lord My Soul To Take: Sandulescu’s Poignant and Witty Meditation on Mortality

Liviu Sandulescu Carturan reviewLiviu Săndulescu’s Carturan is a tale about bribery, the uncaring bureaucratic system, blasphemy and unavoidable death – at least on the surface. At the same time, it’s also a tender, surprisingly funny film, devoid of unnecessary melodramatics or fatalism. Carturan’s (Teodor Corban) calm life in sunny rural Romania is upended by sudden and horrifying news – the quiet old man has terminal stomach cancer. This means that he needs to sort his affairs as soon as possible – and that includes finding a new home for Cristi (Vlad Popescu), his 13-year-old grandson. Cristi has lived with Carturan ever since the tragic death of his own parents, and now his grandfather can’t bear the thought of letting the boy end up in an overcrowded orphanage.

Another thing that Carturan wants to do before his two months are over is organize and host his own wake. It’s a strange decision on his part, borderline blasphemous, but such is the tradition in the region Carturan grew up in. This seems like a quirky, but unimportant storyline at first, yet it ends up being crucial to the entire film. Sandulescu isn’t trying to scare the viewer with the idea of mortality, his feature is more concerned with how faith (or superstition) helps us deal with the inevitability of death. Through Carturan’s long arguments with the local priest (Adrian Titieni), we are shown the importance of setting our differences aside. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu shoots these scenes in a near-documentary style – there are long static takes, unexpected close-ups and usually something’s happening in the background. All of this works to highlight the fact that death is just a natural occurrence we have to deal with.

The ideas aren’t groundbreaking, but Sandulescu’s tone sets Carturan apart. The writer-director never comes off as preachy or dramatic, and infuses his story with dark humor and melancholy sweetness. The idea of death is dealt with as something mundane – at one point Carturan jokingly threatens to sue the coffin-maker if the casket he will be buried in turns out to be too small. He also takes up smoking again, sarcastically noting that it probably won’t do him much harm now. Set in a quaint small village that feels lived-in, and filled with lush, colourful cinematography, Carturan is a welcome paradox. A life-affirming film about a terminally sick man.

Reviewed on October 17th at the 20189 Warsaw International Film Festival – Competition 1-2. 90 Mins. Part of the The Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project.


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