Directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko
Cornerhouse, 6 July 2012
A woman’s body is a river; the problem is you can’t drown in it.
Just one of the notions to be found in this strange, spiritual film: it has an ambience of heightened life, of fragile beauty, as when people are close to death.
They’d both loved this woman, one of the men being her husband, and now her body lies in the back of their car as they drive towards her funeral pyre. They’ll construct it themselves by the bank of a river.
Merjan beliefs, in particular as they relate to death, are explained in the film – and there’s an ethnological aspect to it, undoubtedly. However, while these people do apparently exist they probably don’t have the shamanic beliefs ascribed to them; it is something of a put-on job.
Nonetheless, this is an absorbing film. I found the mix of the Merjan’s supposed ancient and poetic beliefs and the banal Soviet-era environment (run-down factories, concrete slabs everywhere, pylons all along the road) to be a potent brew.