“Proshchanie,” Mariya Saakyan’s short film, preceded her first feature, Mayak. There is sparse speech, and Saakyan has had Second Run, which produced the film’s DVD (“Proshchanie” appears as an “extra” with Mayak), not provide English subtitles—a decision that augments its impression as a dream. It may also be described as an elegy—one shorn of sentimental lyricism. It is an elegy possessing a hardened edge of lyricism.
The protagonist—let us name her Mariya—bears a lightly fixed, blank expression. Is she sleep-traveling? Onboard a train at night, Mariya moves through a world of darkness, ambient sounds (whistles, the wheels of the train, etc.) and flickering memories: the boy who used to be her companion; a reason for her leavetaking. Hers is an elegy of romantic loss every piece of which impresses us as present-tense, whether recollected past or actual present.
Is she dreaming of leaving him because he ended their romance? Regardless, the train ride is interrupted by spooky images, including what appears to be the tunnel drawing of a wide-eyed, upright animal-monster such as Goya might imagine. With its fixed stare, it could be a lost image of herself—the loveless Mariya she left behind.
Many of the brief shots are of near-total darkness; one, outdoors, is of total darkness sparked by a single point of light.
A wonderful shot, atypically sustained, finds Mariya perhaps having arrived somewhere. She is being taxied. She appears blacked-out, an opaque shadow. We cannot tell whether she is facing front or back, but we assume she is facing ahead as we watch the moving image of her captivating feeling: the receding road that we glimpse through the vehicle’s back window. Is Mariya losing mental ground?
Over closing credits of this miniature masterpiece, a haunting melody is hummed.
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