QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
The story goes more or less like this: a young and beautiful Greek couple, Anna (Katia Gouliani) and Petros (Andreas Konstantinou), move to a large and very remote industrial city of Siberia. Petros is conducting research about a proposed river relocation, but his findings aren’t entirely aligned with corporate interests. The town is covered in snow, with extreme sub-zero temperatures. But it isn’t just the weather that’s cold. Anna and Petro’s relationship has also cooled down. Anna has lost her libido and the couple haven’t had sex in the past six months.
Then Anna becomes mysteriously pregnant. She swears that she hasn’t had sex with anyone at all, and she seems very convinced of it herself. A local Russian Orthodox community think that she may have been blessed with some sort of holy gift. Could she be the mother of a new messiah? Anna slowly drifts away from her partner and gets immersed in the religious community. Immersed, literally. She engages in various rituals, including being thrown into the extremely cold waters of the river.
The cinematography of Still River is nothing short of spectacular. The movie was not filmed in Siberia, but in Murmansk and Latvia instead. The infinitely white landscape blended the blue and grey tones of Winter provide an splendid backdrop to this unusual and vaguely lethargic drama. The action is harsh and stern, just like the landscape. Derelict industrial and residential buildings will ring bells with those familiar with the cinematography of Zvyagentsev.
Deep River is not an anti-Russian statement. Despite Russia being portrayed as profoundly impoverished, this isn’t necessarily a negative portrayal of the country. Instead, the derelict buildings and strangely hypnotic. The movie makes no clear-cut political statement. There is some vague criticism of neoliberal and corporate interests, but this could apply to pretty much any country in the world.
All in all, Deep River is a film about inexplicable truths, and also about balancing religion and science, faith and rationality. The story that can be interpreted in many ways, and the ending will raise more questions than answers. The outcome is, however, a little too hybrid for my taste. There are references to Greek mythology, the Russian Orthodox Church, the corporate world, train crashes, sports and much more. The films takes way too many poetic freedoms, and the outcome is a little muddled.
Plus, there are a couple of incoherent elements in the narrative. A husband who manages to carry out a DNA test for his unborn child without the mother’s knowledge, and a persistent Winter that lasts from the very beginning to the very end of a pregnancy. It isn’t just the river that’s still. So are the seasons of the year, it seems. These minor issues, however, will not prevent you from enjoying this 128-minute drama.
Deep River is showing in Competition at the 22nd Tallinn Black Night Film Festival, which is taking place right now. DMovies are covering the event live as special guests.