1 August 2005 | gradyharp
Silences and Merging with Nature Create This Luminous Elegy
Aleksandr Sokurov in MAT I SYN (MOTHER AND SON) has succeeded in capturing those brief, breathing moments that surround death, freezing them in an timeless mold like a shell in a crystal mass, something that goes beyond the passage of time and captures the essence of extended farewells. This brief film is one of the most probing and tender embraces of the meeting/meaning of life and death, of the continuity of a mother's soul in the form of her son, and most important, it is an elegy about the quiet power and beauty of nature.
A son (Aleksei Ananishnov) comforts his terminally ill mother (Gudrun Geyer) with gentle caresses, combing her hair, sharing dreams that are identical, and providing solace in every way imaginable. The mother asks for a walk and the son carries her in his arms to a vantage of the sea and through the gnarled trunks of the woods, a path marked by poplars. He carries her back to the little house, and as she sleeps he walks by himself, observing a little train (a departure) in the distance, a sole ship (a departure) gliding on the ocean, and amidst all this natural beauty he clings to an old tree in a tearful embrace. He returns and his mother has died: the cycle of life is complete.
Throughout this seemingly simple film Sokorov concentrates on silence, the little dialogue that is spoken is from the gentle script by Yuri Arabov. The 'actors' are appropriately not actors (Ananishnov is a Professor of Mathematics!). The sounds are of nature - rumbling thunder, wind in the trees - and the minimal music is appropriately by Mikhail Glinka and Otmar Nussio with original music by Mikhail Ivanovich. The cinematography by Aleksei Fyodorov is likely greatly influenced by Sokurov's vision: each frame is a still life of nature both with and without the two characters, and with the use of filters, mirrors and broken glass the images are indescribably beautiful. Filmed on the island of Rügen close to the coast of Germany the atmosphere is pure and unhindered by peripheral marks of civilization. Sokurov's 1997 film and his subsequent films OTETS I SYN ('FATHER AND SON') and RUSSKIY KOVCHEG ('RUSSIAN ARK') have established him as one of the most creative filmmakers of today. Highly recommended, especially for those who appreciate art, nature, and the humbling magnificence of the cycle of life.