Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Long Day's Journey Into Night

Sokurov's elegy didn't make as deep an impression on me as it did on Nick Cave, but I was moved.  A mother and son appear to be in a self-imposed exile.  There are sounds from beyond Sokurov's distorted close-ups, but you don't see the children playing or the seagulls that lend a seaside appearance to the film.  Sokurov only chooses to show a train and a ship at sea to imply a distant connection.

Gary Morris describes the painterly quality to the film, Sokurov's sense of German Romanticism, with dream-like landscapes that evoke Caspar David Friedrich.  The long narrow shots, especially of the mother in bed made me think of Egon Schiele.  Whatever your impression, the film draws you into its claustrophobic world, eliciting deep emotions.

The house appears as it may have served as the mother's school house before.  It is bare and institutional looking, and she and her son allude to her earlier days in gentle conversation.   She lies in a bed, which resembles a masonry crib fit into the niche of a window with a view out onto a springtime field.  However, we are made well aware that these are her final moments and that her grown son must come to terms with her death so that he can move on with his life.

The son appears to have served her all these years and when she asks him to take her for a walk, he literally carries her along a country road, pausing at various points for rest and reflection.  He is so tender toward her.   She talks little.  Her breath appears to slowly ebb away.

Back at the desolate house, ensconced in her bed again, with the crackling sound of a fire in the stone hearth, life flows back into her for a brief moment as she shares a few memories with her son.  He gently pleads with her to stay strong, saying we can live like this as long as you want, but she no longer wants to live like this, which brings with it the sense of disconsolate longing which made Nick Cave weep.

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