Posts Tagged ‘Vilnius’

Remember to Blink (2023) Vilnius Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Austeja Urbaite; Cast: Doville Kundrotaite, Anne Azoulay, Arthur Igual, Inesa Sionova, AgusAntarnacius; Lithuania 2023, 109 min.

Women have the upper hand in this provocative and harrowing study of jealousy, obsession and cultural division, a feature debut for Lithuanian writer/director Austeja Urbaite, screening at this year’s Vilnius International Film Festival. 

The glorious countryside of Northern France provides a bosky backdrop to turbulent family politics when French couple – Jacqueline (Azoulay) and Leon (Igual) – decide to adopt Lithuanian siblings Karolin (Sionova) and Rytis (Antarnacius). They have hired a Lithuanian nanny to help the children settle in after leaving the orphanage back home where they have clearly been traumatised, and Karolin given sleeping pills.

Medical student Gabrielle is easy-going and plays imaginative games with the children but Jacqueline is dominating and controlling, pushing for discipline. In an insensitive move she also changes the kids’ names to Caroline and Romain, in honour of the writer Romain Gary, who was of Lithuanian heritage. When they all get wet during playtime, their mother-to-be complains to Gabi “You are not a child any more!”. Leon, a painter and designer, takes the line of least resistance but secretly agrees with Gabi. His wife has a dark secret: she gave birth to a son, Sebastian, at the age of sixteen and the boy later left home never to be seen again.

Gabi re-plays the “Gorgon” sage with the children – obviously Jacqueline features as the titular villain. But the nanny is increasingly concerned for the kids’ welfare and gets in contact with their birthmother in Lithuania. One night Leon storms off after a big row  with his wife and Gabi decides to escape back home with her charges, having poisoned the family dog. 

Language and its use and misuse plays a central role in this psychological thriller: Gabi tries to keep the children’s motherland alive, but Jacqueline wants them   to integrate into the French way of life. Leon stays neutral but is a weak character compared with both women. What’s fascinating here is the director’s decision to portray her own gender as manipulative and machiavellian through the characters of Gabi, Jacqueline and Karolin in this mature and inspired debut. AS



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