7.5/10
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7 user 4 critic

Elegiya dorogi (2001)

From a misty night into the dark exposition rooms of a museum to ponder philosophically at paintings by 'Pieter Jansz Saenredam', 'Hercules Pieterszoon Seghers', Hendrikus van de Sande ... See full summary »

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From a misty night into the dark exposition rooms of a museum to ponder philosophically at paintings by 'Pieter Jansz Saenredam', 'Hercules Pieterszoon Seghers', Hendrikus van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Andreas Schelfhout, Vincent van Gogh, Pieter Bruegel, Charles Henri Joseph Leickert. Written by Artemis-9

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5 September 2001 (Italy)  »

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Elegia di un viaggio  »

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Written by Sergei Slonimsky (as Serguei Slonimski)
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User Reviews

Genesis. Cosmos. Creation. Birth. Life. Death.
21 February 2017 | by See all my reviews

In the beginning there was a tree, an autumn tree. It had lost its leaves. But there was fruit on it left for the birds.

Snow fell already. Strange clouds appeared, as if it were summer, not autumn. The sky was dark and deep. Thunder could be heard. There was movement over the water. There were birds. Birds who flew for no other reason than beauty alone. Then the clouds changed. The sky became flat. The light shone upon G-d's command.

I was afraid of falling. Someone left me. I started to feel better. I breathed deeply. Then movement started. I realized it was winter. I was cold. I could almost touch the road. So smooth and transparent. Houses appeared, like an abandoned village under a cold sun. Windows, roofs. And the people? It must be noon, but where are the people? Grey buildings, like prisons. Then came the fog. (confusion).

I found myself on a clearing.

The world created out of darkness and winter and fear, child born, movement, then abandoned, G-dless, fatherless, nationless, but grateful for the freedom of free will. Fragile berry fruit tree, its branches, stiffened and frozen into place like burnt nerves (Plath), a wintry tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with "fruit on it left for the birds". The fruit of this tree teaching the cycle of life and nourishment and struggle and survival and death and rebirth and beauty.

Spectacular scenery of leaden winter clouds in heavens in the darkest dark of the night overlooking black wintry landscapes. Lunar ambiance and lunar silence and lunar seclusion. Voyager the satellite of history, trying to understand his inborn orbit to a G-d, to a father, to a nation, to a life that cut him off and abandoned him at birth.

A wall of snow soundlessly wheeling and reeling in a steady downriver current like a river current frothing forward in a storm, an apt metaphor for the many nations and peoples that drifted without a base after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and an apt metaphor for the transitory nature of existence. A wall of snow drift reeling forward like one gigantic moving mass of migratory disintegration.

Sokurov, our narrator, our voyager, noctivagant. Going back in time to the place of his birth and voyaging through his past and the past of his country and the past of history itself. Travelling across across frontiers of nations and borders, traveling through monastic, nautical, museologic spaces. Dark strokes of Classical music and the distantiated echoes of ambient sound, haunting musical haiku conveying Sokurov's existential turmoil.

Voyager, guided by a monk enters a monastery in Valdai (Old Russia), a journey to find G-d, to understand G-d, to understand Jesus' sacrifice, to study the spirit of a man in the throes of death and an empire in the throes of death and a history in the throes of death, Voyager like Abraham of the Bible, Abram heeding G-d's call of Lech Lecha, and, after passing G-d's tests of faith and accepting G-d's promises to multiply his seed, evolving into Abraham, officially setting up the shop of Judaism which later forged Christianity, but Voyager is beginning at the end of that, faithless and spiritually decayed and identityless. Sokurov asking the monk, why did Christ pray that his Father not send him to his sacrificial cross? Why did Christ, want to avoid crucifixion? If he so loathed being crucified, then how can I accept his sacrifice? Why did I speak about this? His monk keeps silent, G-d fails to answer, the Christ (in Sokurov's view) nothing more than a mere mortal on an equal plane with all of humanity in his resistance to death, the implication being Why is Humankind invested in Christ's sacrifice if He was unwilling to make it, a Baptism occurring in the background ends, a soldier on a pew jars the moment, war invoked and Voyager perhaps remembering himself as a soldier, a fleeting flashback of soldiers crosses the screen, Voyager coalesces back into uninhabited nocturnal landscapes and his own interiorized private world of exilic and religious and spiritual alienation and despair.

Voyager is eternity's hostage and prisoner of time, he's exilic and unhomed and displaced theologically, nationalistically, culturally, and historically.

Voyager not knowing what location he's leaving and where he's going, destabilized location, Guideless, he doesn't know where he came from or where he's going to, he doesn't know who he was or who he will become, he doesn't know where G-d is or where his father is or where his nation is or who or what will guide him, the ship, perhaps Noah's Arc, carrying him beyond the flood of threatening-but-indifferent waves that fill every corner of the earth, transporting him away from his barren abandoned provincial rural Eastern locality and relocating him Westward in cosmopolitan Germany (the trajectory from East to West invoking a reversal of Germany's wartime West-East invasion of Russia), a Germany blanketed beneath a continual falling powdery wall of migratory disintegrating downriver streams of snow.

Voyager whispering, the canvas remains warm, the body remains warm yet must it still die, the spirit remains warm yet must the spirit also die? All the paintings except Van Gogh's include rivers and most appear to also include boats, the boats the body and the water the soul and the spirit and the boats on the water representing the journey into the great unknown, towards death. The camera also passes over two empty frames, spiritless man, coincidence or prophetic.

Last painting, the camera literally enters Bruegel's Tower of Babel, a glorious surface exploration of a crumbling arcesque Ur-text Torah-text, covenant between humanity and G-d shattered, humankind scattered and abandoned, hammering in the theme of humanity's disconnect with its Creator (G-d, father, Nation) and humanity's destructive impulses and apocalypse, the screen turns black.


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