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Twittering Soul 3D (Čiulbanti Siela 3D)

Snakes, spells, growing rocks and a flying corpse come together in this esoteric blend of fantasy drama and visual arts experiment from Lithuania - from the 53rd edition of Rotterdam

This 3D movie (one of the very few such film to stem from te Baltics) starts with a very long sequence of distant clouds. It’s as if the director and cinematographer Eitvydas Doškus wanted to tell viewers that they are about to embark on an ethereal, magical journey into another dimension. Next we safely land on the verdant and lush forests of South Lithuania, the characters wearing period costumes and delivering their lines robotically and with very little passion. While clearly on Earth, this does feel rather otherworldly.

What follows is a barely decipherable fairy tale with obscure references to Lithuanian culture that those outside the Baltics may struggle to grasp. A woman desperately sucks the poison out of a serpent bite, some sort of incantation sends a man into a trance-like state, a hornpiper projects his musical notes into the air, and we are repeatedly told that rocks are miraculously getting bigger (a phenomenon we never witness). Events are occasionally juxtaposed against a starry sky, with holy chants providing the final touch of mysticism. The movie wraps up with a very beautiful scene in which the dead body of a woman levitates (very much a la Tarkovsky’s Mirror, from 1975), while people say the rites around her. With a little twist: what happens to the lifeless body next is both visually and poetically arresting (plus it requires technical prowess).

The story surrounds a wealthy landlord experimenting with a rare stereoscopic device while cutting old photos.In one of them, he sees “the revolutionary and pioneer of stereoscopic photography” Stanislaw Filibert Fleury. The landlord advises his daughter not to walk barefoot, but she does not listen to his advice. She seduces the hornpiper, whose soul can “fly like a bird”. All of this happens of the eve of Doomsday. I wouldn’t be able to write this very short synopsis without reading the Festival blurb. And I had never heard of Stanislaw Filibert Fleury, who happens to be a famous Lithuanian photographer. The cultural references are just too obscure, and the story is just too esoteric for people outside the Baltics to grasp. The film is spoken in a little-known dialect of Lithuanian, heavily influenced by Polish. Perhaps for that reason the delivery of the dialogues is rather stilted. A young woman crying out loud over the flying corpse is particularly contrived and irritating.

Deimantas Narkevičius is an internationally recognised Lithuanian artist. Originally trained as a sculptor, Narkevičius worked mainly with film and video. His solo exhibitions have featured all across Europe, and also in New York. His work has been presented several times in the UK, including a retrospective at the BFI Southbank Gallery in 2009. Twittering Soul 3D might work as an art installation, one into which people can walk in, look at the awe-inspiring images at their own leisure, and walk out whenever they wish. It is just too monotonous and incoherent as a stand-alone feature film.

Twittering Soul 3D premiered in the Baltic Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. Also showing at the 53rd edition of Rotterdam.

By Victor Fraga - 20-11-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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