Beyond the Clichés of the Romanian New Wave

in 26th Sofia IFF

by Ingeborg Bratoeva-Daraktchieva

The Windseeker – a spiritual journey toward the significance of everyday life

A new Romanian film beyond the clichés of the Romanian New Wave! I was pleasantly surprised by The Windseeker (Căutătorul de vânt), the first feature film by Mihai Sofronea, in the competition of SIFF 2022. A newcomer to feature film, Sofronea has significant professional experience. He has worked with Corneliu Porumboiu on 12:08 East from Bucharest (A fost san n-a fost?, 2006) and on Police, adjective (Politist, adjectiv, 2009). He also directed the famous Romanian TV series Chiquititas (2007), co-founded an independent production company, and shot two short films.

The Windseeker (2021), a co-production between Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia, is a parable. It is a story about the beauty and the significance of everyday life — an accomplished reflection on human existence. The film’s title comes from the protagonist’s false explanation of him looking for places to build wind turbines at. Instead, he is “chasing after the wind.” On a metaphoric level, this phrase traditionally expresses the futility of every human endeavor (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

Writer-director Sofronea creates a personal existential drama designed as a road movie. He sets up a narrative out of the narrow and cramped living spaces, compulsory for Romanian films in the last two decades. He also successfully interprets human existence on a level beyond the clichés of dullness and misery in post-communist Romania. As a result, The Windseeker, an artistic reflection on the complexity of human existence, opens Romanian cinema to further in-depth representations of reality.

The protagonist Radu (Dan Bordeianu) is told by his doctor that he only has three more months left to live. Shocked by this news, he quits all his plans and sets out on a journey in a random direction. Driving across the Romanian plains, he faces the essentials of the human condition – sickness, pain, conflict, love, desire, and conciseness of his mortality, the totality of the experience of being human. This journey of spiritual growth pushes him out of his isolation and teaches him to hold on to life, despite the awareness of his transience. Gradually, Radu finds his footholds in his relationship with nature and interpersonal communication. Sofronea stresses the importance of the human-nature bond by revealing the beauty of nature in the language of cinema with the artistic support of Toni Cartu as director of photography.

The writer-director tells a simple story, developed as a linear narrative. Radu collapses in the middle of nowhere on his dead-end road, trying to escape the terminal situation. A peasant, Uncle Pavel (Adrian Titieni), who is equally lonesome, missing his emigrant son, finds him. Pavel invites the exhausted stranger to his house, and gradually the two men establish a father-son relationship. Sofronea directs and reveals the relationships between the characters with precision and delicacy.

Radu connects in the same way with the young son of the village woman (Olimpia Melinte) he falls in love with. He gains the boy’s trust bit by bit and replaces his absent emigrant father. Sofronea bases his narrative on parallelisms. Furthermore, there is visual parallelism in natural landscapes and scenery representations. The director uses this technique to emphasise the all-embracing terminal diagnosis of our time – broken family ties and shattered relationships.

As with any parable, the film has its point – holding on to life is a matter of choice on a spiritual level. Radu reaches the bottom when his biologically determined fear makes him give up love and human closeness. The last three months of his life, predicted by the doctor, are long passed, and he no longer shows symptoms of illness.

Nevertheless, Radu is not willing yet to start a new life. Thus, he must continue his escape by crossing the Danube River. Symbolically, crossing a river means entering the world of death. Again, the hero reaches the Black Sea and tries to drown in its waves. And again, he is saved by a stranger, a Bulgarian fisherman (Valeri Yordanov). Both men do not speak each other languages, but they drive together in the small fishing boat of the Bulgarian. The hero’s spiritual journey is accomplished – Radu returns to his life aware of his mortality but finds meaning in human interaction and closeness.

Ingeborg Bratoeva
Edited by Savina Petkova