On Death and Love

in 12th Transilvania International Film Festival

by Iaromira Popovici

The section “This is the End”, presented at this year’s festival, featured twelve films dealing with death or disintegration of various kinds. Although the films are from very different countries and cultures (Argentina, Bulgaria, Belgium, Holland, Peru, Russia, Thailand, Turkey), some of them still have common characteristics: for instance, the theme of the relationship between death and love, the two being entwined, and not only in a Freudian way. The best example of this was the Russian film Living (Zhit), directed by Vasily Sigarev, in which the love which the main characters have for their partners and children transcends death. The dead (who have passed away in violent situations) help the living to survive after them, in a fascinating world which skilfully incorporates metaphysics.

A similar phenomenon — but with a different process — occurs in Adrian Saba’s The Cleaner (El Limpiador). Eusebio (played impressively by Victor Prada), a man whose job is to clean up after the dead and who lives mechanically in a world of dissolution, meets a boy (Adrian Du Bois). The relationship with this child brings him into life and normality, regardless of the world of death around him. In this context, his death in the end is not a tragedy, but a restoring of balance.

The intermingling of life and death fools us in Jasmin Lopez’s Lions (Leones). Five teenagers (Julia Volpato, Pablo Sigal, Macarena del Corro, Diego Vegezzi, Tomas Mckinlay) should be finding their way towards life. Instead, they are heading towards death…

In Panihida,directed by Ana- Felicia Scutelnicu, the road towards death is depicted quite literally: a grandmother is brought by her family for burial in the village cemetery. During this never-ending journey, grief and joy are lived one after another, in natural succession. The film becomes more interesting when we realize that only one of the performers is a professional actor: all the others are inhabitants of the village in Moldova.

Other movies in this section dealt with ways to overcome death. In the Bulgarian Last Black Sea Pirates, directed by Svetoslav Stoyanov, a group of retired men living by the sea devote their lives to the search for mythological treasure and to devising utopias. In Me Too (Ya Tozhe Khochu), directed by Alexei Balabanov, the heroes begin a quest for happiness which can end only in a tower located in an irradiated, deserted area. Both movies have a great sense of black humor in dealing with impossible, absurd situations.

Posing essential problems which were examined using innovative means, the movies in this section were, in my opinion, an important part of this year’s festival.

Edited by Lesley Chow