Eastern Drift: Globalization according to Bartas
by Valentina Di Michele
The superstar Lithuanian director has created a dark melo-noir about globalization, using a narrative style totally new to him, far from the long, silent sequences of untamed nature of the titles – all of which played at festivals – that established him, from Three Days of 1991 to Freedom (2000).
Bartas cast himself (and often fully nude) in the main role of Gena, who lives selling drugs and committing crime between Paris, Vilnius and Moscow. When a deal gone wrong leaves him penniless, Gena returns to the woman he loves (French model Elisa Sednaoui) in Lithuania, but soon moves to the Russian capital, where another woman, the prostitute Sasha, awaits him.
His stay in Moscow will be short-lived, however, because he kills a Russian mafioso and is forced to escape with Sasha towards the heart of Europe. But the desperate flight is in the end marked by the inevitability of fate.
The disillusionment of a “Eurasian aboriginal” torn between faraway and violent lands is the key to interpreting this film, says the director: “I needed a story of a man in movement to present today’s world, between unification and fragmentation. A world that can’t stay inside it’s own skin, dominated by animal instincts, where there is no more security or shelter, and the fundamental problems – terrorism, hunger, sharing the wealth – have no solutions”.
The film’s many elements, however, are not balanced, and Bartas often seems to have trouble managing the (numerous) action scenes in a fascinating plot that mixes, not very convincingly, dark romanticism, existential nomadism and a wild road movie. If nature is an enemy, but alive, here it must face culture and civilization: but Bartas missteps in his homage to the classics of melodrama (the scenes of the lovers on the snow date far back cinematically, from Nicholas Ray to Truffaut) in the not always successful attempt to depict a moral universal in ruins.
(Translated from Italian)