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Koridorius (The Corridor)

Posted by martinteller on September 13, 2014

Like many guys from my generation, there was a period of my life where I played a lot of videogames (actually, in my day it was still considered a pretty dorky thing to do, but nonetheless, a lot of guys did it).  The thing is, I was never particularly good at them and on the rare occasion when I play a videogame nowadays, I always use the easiest settings.  Some people like to play on the hardest settings and take it as a point of pride that they can master the most difficult games.  This is the third film I’ve seen by Sharunas Bartas, and it felt like playing Bartas on “Expert” level.  The other two I’d seen — A Casa and Few of Us — weren’t easy either, but this one was particularly challenging.

Perhaps “challenging” isn’t the right word, as it implies an intention to confound.  I don’t get the feeling that Bartas is trying to alienate the viewer, but rather that these are the movies he wants to make, and the audience will come to him… or not.  He doesn’t make concessions, maybe even less so than Bela Tarr.  Tarr is an easy comparison point, the two filmmakers share many similarities.  The incredibly slow pacing, the dingy locales, the downtrodden characters, the themes of post-communist Eastern Europe, the lack of dialogue (in this case, a total lack).  And here the comparison is even stronger, with Bartas working in black & white and achieving results that are equally impressive.  Some of the images here are very evocative, although on the whole I found it less visually captivating than A Casa.  Another point of comparison: a scene involving a mad, shambolic gathering in a kitchen recalls the centerpiece of Satantango.

The setting is a decrepit apartment building, whose residents seem locked in various states of depression, madness, inebriation or desperation.  There are violent motifs, several images of fire and guns, and a scene in which a young woman is pushed into a filthy puddle at least 20 times… every time stubbornly getting back on her feet to confront her attackers.  Some figures wander around, looking very dejected, as if searching for meaning… any meaning at all.  The corridor of the building is often seen, perhaps meant to evoke a state of transition or limbo.  A corridor is neither here nor there, it’s a space between the spaces we actually want to be in.  Knowing that Bartas’s films are particularly concerned with the problems and trauma of Lithuanian society, the metaphor is clear.

However, the meaning of many of the scenes and images eluded me and left me frustrated.  I felt I lacked the “mad skillz” to decode what I was seeing, and at times I wished there was a menu I could go into and change the difficulty level to “Novice”.  Is this a more impenetrable movie than the others by Bartas I’ve seen, or are my cinematic faculties getting rusty?  I could pick up on the sorrowful mood, but much of the significance was lost on me.  Rating: Good (72)


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