Bridges Of Time


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Bridges Of Time
"both a love letter to the documentarians from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania... and a dialogue between the period in which these poetic pioneers were working and the present day." | Photo: Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

This contemplative and self-reflexive documentary from Latvian director Kristine Briede and Lithuanian filmmaker Audrius Stonys is both a love letter to the documentarians from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who, presumably, inspired them and a dialogue between the period in which these poetic pioneers - including Latvian Ivars Seleckis, Lithuanian Robertas Verba and Estonian Andres Sööt - were working and the present day.

The conversation between the Sixties (and onwards) and today shows the directors and some of their subjects now and then as well as offering up a meditation on the way that documentary may not just capture the quotidian goings on but also a spiritual element. As one of them puts it, "The meaning of life is searching for the meaning of it".

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There is a wealth of archive clips from across the Baltics - from fishermen and women to a child reciting a poem about a bear. These aren't individually namechecked in the course of the film, which allows the chat the filmmakers want to have between this past footage and that which they capture themselves to flow more freely - though you may well find yourself hunting down some of these beguiling portraits on IMDB afterwards. All of them show a poetic sensibility - in one film fromLativian Uldis Brauns children doing the twist on a beach, while a helicopter, at first threatening, then seems to begin to dance in the sky - but also a willingness to focus in on the everyday and simply observe, something we see as the camera drinks in the faces in a Sixties cafe just as eagerly as those it observes drink coffee.

The film also strikes a melancholic note, not simply because some of those presented here, both directors and subjects, are no longer with us, except in archive footage but also because these films are a reminder of how traditions and even belief systems can become lost with time. There's a real poignancy when the little poem girl, now in middle age, when considering how precious the film is to her says, "Everyone is still alive there".

In addition to being a celebration of these past masters' work, the filmmakers also allow their predecessors' personalities to shine through, such as when Sööt is captured horsing about for the camera back in his Seventies heyday before they show he's still playful when looking down a lens in the present. A lovingly made introduction to Baltic documentary cinema that many outside of those countries will not have encountered before, the directors also succeed in offering up a more universal contemplation of human life and our passage through it.

Reviewed on: 14 Jul 2021
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Essay documentary about the less remembered generation of cinema poets of the Baltic New Wave.

Director: Audrius Stonys, Kristīne Briede

Year: 2018

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

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