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Yuri Ilyenko's feature film debut is a powerful and harrowing piece of filmmaking. Shot in the obvious magic of black and white, the movie starts as a chain of sequences that could be hard to understand, but once the viewer slowly relaxes and invests in the film, the story becomes pretty clear and absorbing. This is a little parable about life in harshness, and what old age does, after you've seen so many pass you by. It is about an old man, spending his last days and waiting for his death in a desolate house all alone, surrounded only by his memories and photographs from a bygone era. In his spare time, he makes a coffin for himself and then starts sleeping in it, hoping that way Death will come to him sooner. The film is a mix of the past and present, capturing beauty, war, politics and regrets, in other words, 'life' itself through another eye as it trickles to stagnation and decay. The old man stays on a deserted piece of land with only a well for company (and occasionally an old lady, probably symbolizing his conscience), a well that has comforted travelers and soldiers alike for many years. Somehow, the well becomes the man's alter ego; the clear water gradually becoming vile, even as our old guy wanes away in the corner. In time his family comes to visit, bringing with them the old man's pregnant daughter in law who gives birth as the film ends, probably referring to our man's death (my personal assumption) in a cyclic manner. Symbolisms are etched on the expansive landscapes beautifully, and this is honestly a rousing film in the last 40 minutes, but to experience that the viewer needs to be patient for the first twenty five minutes or so. Seemingly arty and incoherent at the start, the pieces slowly fall together, building up a moving and poetic ode to the journey of life towards absolution. Excellent visuals too. Great start with Ilyenko.
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