Dir.: Tomas Smulkis; Cast: Milda Noreikaite, Gabija Jaraminaite, Arunas Sakalauskas, Paulius Markevicius, Dainus Svobanas, Jolante Dapkunaite; Drama, Lithuania 2021, 102 min.
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Lithuanian way.
Founded in 1387, Vilnius is still shifting on the fault-lines of its turbulent past according to debut filmmaker Thomas Smulkis, who has made this resonant, unworldly feature debut with a distinct cinematic voice.
Over four summer days Smulkis distills the essence of a modern capital in flux through the surreality of three bewildered inhabitants calling it home – for the time being. An airy feeling of serenity wafts through the summery settings in the limpid light of the Northern hemisphere softened by Sigita Simkuaite’s stylish hues of eau de nil and taupe. Nature plays a signicant part here and Smulkis’ dazzling eye for detail captures everyday life on the streets in unexpected and eerily serendipitous ways.
Goda (Jaraminaite) is the most straightforward of the trio, even though her glorified existence is anything but stable. Will she be able to see the gilded trap she has built for herself? We first meet her overladen with designer shopping bags making her way into a chic apartment in a smart part of town. Goda lives alone so why are a pair of men’s shoes in the hallway? Her sister has invited a colleague to stay, although she lives somewhere else. Clearly Goda is put out, to say the least, calmly asking the stranger to leave via email. But he stays on oblivious taking his leave on his own terms while she wanders round displaced and uncomfortable longing to regain the peace of her sanctuary.
In another part of town, medic Juste (Norakaite) and her partner and co-worker Paulius (Markevicius) are also going through a confusing time. Paulius has been offered a flat in a high rise block outside the city, but Juste does not want to live “in the middle of nowhere”. They carry on oblivious until a negative pregnancy leaves her relieved at the result. The two cycle off, and at the lights Paulius has a something unexpected to say.
In their stylish urban kitchen Vytas (Sakalauskas) placidly asks his wife of twenty years for a divorce. Later he visits his old flame Audrius (Svobanas), who is dying of cancer. A literal and metaphorical car crash sees Elena (Dapkunaite) quietly reflecting on how her ife carried for so many years in tacit denial of an emotional truth that has always been obvious for everyone concerned.
DoP Vytautas Plukas pictures these characters silently reeling in the face of calm contradiction. Vilnius reflects the silent chaos in the rubbish-strewn building sites of the centre: the character of the old city has changed forever, the capital will soon look like any other metropolis in Europe as the past is gently aid to rest – without reflection. Mostly relying on an ambient soundscape, the occasional score by Lina Lapelyte makes a weird intrusion into this perplexed but passionless world. A sensitive and aesthetically mature debut feature. AS
SCREENING AT VILNIUS FILM FESTIVAL 2021