EASTERN ELEGY (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1996)

Gorgeously photographed by Aleksei Fyodorov, Aleksandr Sokurov’s Vostochnaya elegiya—gray, muted green, eerily slightly out of focus—is a dream of death, perhaps the dream of a dream. Low constant wind suggests the echo of a sound which is vaguely recollected. Faint music; distant bursts of song. Sokurov is the dreamer, a gently inquisitive wanderer who finds himself in an old Japanese town on a remote island that is blanketed by layer and layer of swirling fog and mist. “All is a dream,” we hear the dreamer’s low voice say; “. . . nothing weighs on my heart.” Moonlight palely glimmers on water—a reflection; perhaps, rather, the reflection of a reflection. The dreamer’s hand lights on the sign of an old tobacco shop.
     “Am I in Paradise?” the voice, now sad, asks. Is the garden sculpture a Buddha? The dreamer’s voice is still accompanied by wind: “The houses are as if they have turned to stone. I do not hear my steps at all. In this fog, I am like a fish in water. But I feel a chill, as a human would. . . . There is a light in a window. For me, perhaps?” Enrobed in dark space, the face of an elderly woman dimly appears; she is seated, alone. Then elsewhere, the face of an elderly man, who also is seated alone, also dimly appears. The man reminisces. The voice of the dreamer asks, “Do you know how men change after death?” The reply: “They become more tender.” Dreamer: “Why is there such sadness in poetry?” Silence.
     Revisiting the old woman, the dreamer asks, “What is happiness?” Almost nothing in life, she says, made her happy.
     The dreamer’s voice: “It seems I am welcome here, and this island is enough for all my dreams. I will stay.”

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