Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Spring for the Thirsty / Rodnik dlja zhazhdushtshih / Krinitsja dlja spraglih

Родник для жаждущих / Криниця для спраглих / Une source pour les assoiffés / [Lähde janoaville] / En källa för de törstande. SU (UA) 1965. Year of release: 1987. PC: Kievska kinostudija imeni O. Dovzhenka. D: Juri Iljenko. SC: Ivan Dratsh. DP: Juri Iljenko, Volodomir Davydov - 1,37:1, black and white. AD: Petro Maksimenko, Anatoli Mamontov. M: Leonid Grabovski. S: Nina Avramenko. Cast: Dmitro Miljutenko, Larisa Kadotshnikova, Feodosija Alisova, Dzhemma Firsova, Ivan Kostjutshenko, Evgen Balijev, Juri Mazhuga, Olena Kovalenko, Kostjantin Ershov, Natalija Mishtshenko, Volodimir Lemport, Mikola Silis, Grigori Basenko, Sashko Venikov. 70 min. In Ukrainian with credit titles in Russian. A print originally from Triangelfilm / Sovexportfilm Sweden, with Swedish subtitles on print and electronic subtitles by Tuulia Lehtonen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Jubileum of the 20th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine), 24 Sep 2011.

We screened Yuri Ilyenko's legendary shelved debut film this week for the first time in Finland. I had been aware of it since 1987 when it was finally released during the glasnost years in the Soviet Union. The film was never released in Finland. It is an uncompromisingly original and poetic film, a strong contribution to the Ukrainian poetic film movement, much more stark than Ilyenko's third film, the popular The White Bird Marked with Black. Between them he made the wild and delirious Gogol adaptation The Eve of Ivan Kupalo, a Midsummer Night dream phantasmagoria.

A Spring for the Thirsty may not be a polished film, but a certain roughness in it becomes appealing. Ilyenko, a master cinematographer, experiments boldly with high contrast. There is a consistent oneiric quality in the film, which is, however, forcefully grounded in physical reality, the stark facts of the earth and the water.

A Spring for the Thirsty is an original blend of Ukrainian folklore and 1960s Modernist poetry. The main character is the grandfather by the well. His memories bring us to turning points of Ukrainian history, such as the Second World War. The sounds of the axe and the images of apples are reportedly references to the Stalin era, when Ukrainians were forced to chop down their apple gardens. Those references were the reason why the movie was shelved for 22 years.

During the movie the grandfather keeps building his own coffin. But the epilogue is about the old man carrying an apple tree full of apples, and his pregnant granddaughter collecting them... until it is time for her to go into labour. This motif is also an homage to Alexander Dovzhenko's The Earth, a movie which turned bitterly ironic in the light of what happened in Ukraine a few years after it was shot.

The print was ok to watch but perhaps as a result of the film's censorship history the print seems sometimes like one generation too far removed from the original source.

A Spring for the Thirsty is a treasure of experimental cinema that deserves to be better known.

No comments: