Lillian, an emigrant stranded in New York City, decides to walk back to her native Russia. She resolutely starts out on the long journey. A road movie straight across the USA into the freezing temperatures of Alaska. The chronicle of a slow disappearance.Written by
Movie is based on a real event happened in 1927. Her name was Lillian Alling. See more »
a very special road movie
'Lillian', the film by the Austrian director Andreas Horvath was presented last year at Cannes as part of the 'Quinzaine des realisateurs' selection and since then it has toured the festivals, even collecting some prizes. Horvath has so far made only documentary films, and 'Lillian' belongs in some respects to this category as well. Better said 'also' to this category, as this is an original combination of road movie, historical documentary, video art and feature film. It is a special movie, which is inspired by many other films but also by paintings, a film that does not resemble any other that we have seen, and which offers many reasons to be watched and to debate afterwards.
The starting point is a true story that happened almost a century ago which had as heroine Lillian Alling, a Polish immigrant to America in the 1920s, who, determined to return to her country of origin and not having the money for a steamer ticket, decided to return home on foot. She managed to cross North America between 1926 and 1929, and then her traces were lost. It is not known to this day whether she managed to cross the Bering Strait and reach Russia. The story, quite well known at the time, has already inspired at least one book and one French feature movie. Andreas Horvath took Lillian Alling's story and brought it to the America of today. This is not a historical reconstruction, he was not interested in the details, for example the heroine's journey in the film takes place entirely in America (excluding 'details' such as the crossing twice of the US-Canada border), while the historical Lillian Alling has travelled the continent largely through Canada. The historical subject becomes a pretext, the film is especially about today's America.
Lillian (played by Polish video artist Patrycja Planik) is on screen most of the time, but she does not say a word throughout the film. Her communication with the people she encounters is practically non-existent, the young woman survives with small thefts of food and clothes and by sleeping in deserted houses, while most of the people she crosses the road with seem to ignore her. Even when she meets people who help her with compassion, she doesn't even bother to say 'thank you'. Filmed without a script, based on real situations and improvisations, using amateur actors selected from the people on the road of an American journey similar to Lillian's 90 years ago, the film has an air of authenticity, but the ideological bias can be felt. Lillian remains a mystery to the audience, the director does not try to explain her. More important seems to have been for him the strong social commentary, doubled by a political commentary, but these are indirect, suggested. Most of the landscapes he choose are symbols of disintegration - abandoned cities or farms, communities indifferent to anything not related to iclose and immediate reality (such as weather reports), the sub-culture of kitsch events such as the car destroying show, or the protests of American Indians dispossessed of their properties and marginalized on the land that belonged to them. Only religious propaganda banners on the roadside remind of a family morality that is not inclusive to foreigners. The cinematography is excellent, the nature and the reality fragments flow beautifully on the screen, and I think that here and in the excellent actor performance of the Patrycja Planik we can find the principal qualities of this original 'road movie'.
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