Review: Karelia: International with Monument
by Alfonso Rivera
- Andrés Duque takes the viewer to a remote, radiant border region, where the mythological, pure, spontaneous and natural coexist with past and present cruelty
Karelia: International with Monument [+see also:
film profile], the latest feature by Andrés Duque, is the complete opposite of one of those successful TV travel programmes, even if it does take us to a little-known place. The Venezuelan filmmaker, who has been living in Barcelona for decades, is back in Russia after his previous film (Oleg and the Rare Arts [+see also:
film profile]) to focus on the mythology, personality and spirit of a remote territory and border (located between Russia and Finland) that gives the film its title, which was presented in the Voices section at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2019 after being shown at the Palacio del Marqués de Salamanca in Madrid from December until mid-January.
In the summer of 2017, Duque was welcomed into a local Christian family, the Pankratevs: comprised of a father (who we observe, in the fixed frame that opens this documentary, as he examines a book with a magnifying glass, trying to shed light on historical facts, in the image of what will happen in the following minutes), mother and five ruddy children. By observing their daily life – with their spontaneous games, religious rites and baths in a gigantic lake – the filmmaker takes the viewer to a fascinating physical place, crossed by opposing energetic currents, as well into an almost magical state of mind, in which the filmmaker investigates the past and ponders how it is often manipulated by political dictatorships.
With a musical accompaniment that includes pieces by Jean Sibelius, Claude Debussy and Eliane Radigue, among other composers, the insistent sound of insects (which evoke both the fertile land of the genocide and mass graves) and the manipulation of specific images, add to a feeling of estrangement, causing mystery and phantasmagoria to continue to grow throughout the film, which documents the past with photographs and some Stalinist discourse. One particular forest, which has since been transformed into a popular memorial with a sign that reads "We kill one another," with portraits of dead people nailed to thin tree trunks, is incredibly powerful and beautiful, but at the same time, sad and disturbing: "Birds don’t fly there. There is only silence," we hear.
The last part of the film is dedicated to a conversation with Katerina Klodt, daughter of the researcher and historian Yuri Dmitriev, who shows concern for the future of her father, who has been detained by Putin's government after discovering mass graves that question official history. And so, the region of Carelia to which Duque transports us is fully sketched out, in all its chiaroscuro, both sadness and, at the same time, beautiful light: a virgin landscape, pure and uncontaminated, traversed by gigantic ships that are unable to alter its original essence, where the past, regardless of any repressive political decisions, will always be present.
Carelia is a production by Andrés Duque (who is handling the film's sales), created thanks to the BBVA Foundation's 2017 Multiverse scholarship for video art creation.
(Translated from Spanish)
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