Don't Fear The Reaper: Liviu Sandulescu's Sensible Depiction Of Dying In Carturan


    You'll definitely want to give your grandparents a call after seeing Liviu Sandulescu's Carturan (2019). It is a tender portrait of a middle-aged man setting his house in order before the moment of his imminent death. Carturan (Teodor Corban) learns about his stomach cancer and tries his best to arrange a new home for his young grandson Cristi (Vlad Popescu) after he's gone. Over the course of a month, Carturan is carefully wrapping up his life routines rather than feeling inspired to seek new experiences. Securing a new home for Cristi would seal Carturan's legacy as a caring grandfather.

    Carturan and Cristi bond with each other in their picturesque village while playing chess and going fishing. They spend time living in a bubble that is not touched by the news of Carturan's cancer. By contrast, the older man talks freely about the disease to a priest Priest (Adrian Titieni) whose help he attempts to enlist and to bureaucrats as he visits several institutions in the nearby city. In a bus scene, Carturan overhears a passenger prescribing his friend a two-month plan of dieting and exercising. This is painfully intersected with Carturan's awareness of his cancer.

    Sandulescu also gives a portrait of time as a strikingly subjective experience. Carturan is running out of time, while Cristi is just about to go through his newest encounter with grief.
    Carturan comes across a number of rejections while trying to set up a home for Cristi. This is a presentation of the contemporary Romanian bureaucratic system concerning foster children. The wide city shots accentuate Carturan's burdened state by surrounding him with strangers, who supposedly have worries of their own. The off-screen dialogue taking place during Carturan's close-ups intensifies his feeling of hopelessness. Yet, Carturan's face is mostly shown during scenes that show his home environment as a place of comfort. 

    The ticking bomb of Carturan's death is set to bring chaos to Cristi's life. The teenager's unforeseen future is emphasized by him being mostly shot from a distance in scenes before hearing about Carturan's cancer.

    Sandulescu's Carturan presents a pragmatic perspective. The director favors naturalistic photography as a statement that promotes a sensible approach to death. There is no way to escape, you have to bite the bullet and face it.  This naturalistic piece of cinema questions but does not ridicule religious rites related to death. Instead, it minimizes their impact on Cristi and the legacy that he is going to carry.

    Last modified on 18-10-2019