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The Films of Sharunas Bartas

Lithuanian director Sarunas Bartas belongs to a group of Eastern European filmmakers who for more than a decade have chronicled the ruined lives and waning spirits of societies in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Like the Russian Alexander Sokurov and the Hungarian Béla Tarr, he makes films about inarticulate loss, about people who can neither free themselves from the past nor look forward to the future, who are so far beyond hopelessness and despair that verbal communication seems superfluous. In Bartas’s films, aesthetics fuses with ideology: by eliminating dialogue and reducing his cinematic vocabulary primarily to faces, gestures, and landscapes, the already minimalist narrative situations he portrays—however rooted in present-day reality—become archetypal, universal. The very titles of the films evoke the general rather than the particular: Three Days, Few of Us, The Corridor, The House, Freedom. Although these are challenging works, viewers who give themselves over to the spare lyricism they offer are rewarded with a unique space for contemplation and affective resonance.