FNE at Venice IFF 2010: Silent Souls


    VENICE: Director Aleksei Fedorchenko brings a poetic and very Russian vision to the screen with this beautifully shot film. Profound and deeply moving the film is destined for a long life of international festival appearances.

    The story is about a woman and the two men in her life. As the director says the characters are like the little brown birds that we always see but don't really notice. They are common and yet they are beautiful and profound creatures.

    Miron's beloved wife Tanya has passed away. He asks his best friend Aist to help him say goodbye to her and the two men set off on a 1000 mile journey across the vast spaces of central Russia in a jeep with her body in the back. They buy two small birds to take along with them on the journey. The objective is to deliver her body to the sacred Lake Nero according the rituals of the Merya culture which they are supposedly descended from. Merya are an ancient Finno-Ugric tribe and their myths and traditions live and the two men believe that the Merya live on in the hearts and minds of today's Russians.

    His friend Aist is the son of a local poet and works as a photographer in the small town of Neya. His hobby is collecting the songs and traditions of the Merya who he feels a spiritual connection with.

    The film is visually beautiful and full of unforgettable scenes like when the two men tenderly wash Tanya's body. Travelling through the vast and grey landscapes of central Russia the two men share their reminiscences of Tanya. It becomes apparent that both men loved her and perhaps Aist even had an affair with her. Tensions between the two men develop as this strange and poetic road movie progresses but this is the territory of myth and legend and there is never a cheap confrontation between the two men to break the mood which Andrei Karasyov's haunting music reinforces. DOP Mikhail Krichman turns the flat, bleak central Russian landscape into a work of art.

    Like Fedorchenko's earlier film First on the Moon the legend of the Merya may have been written by himself or it may really exist but the poetry is just as ancient and just as profound.

    Ovsyanki (Silent Souls) directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko

    Cast: Igor Sergeyev, Yuriy Tsurilo, Yuliya Aug, Victor Sukhorukov