In a small, snow-covered town in Belarus, a former English teacher manages to scrape a living distributing leaflets to people’s letterboxes. In the evening, he joins his wife in their dingy apartment, and together they reminisce about their son, a student in Minsk they rarely see. Possibly their only excitement of the week is buying a lottery ticket, which, for a few seconds, gives them a chance to dream. Yuliya Shatun’s camera, at first oddly focused on the white expanses along every roadside, then begins to scrutinise the teacher in his comings and goings – a precise recording with, however, a hint of the moroseness of a terrain so rare in today’s cinema. The teacher has stoically adapted to a degenerate world and a life fuelled by stifled shame. An odour of neglect wafts between the apartment blocks, the uttered words and the background noise of the television. A certain irony floats in the air too, and it needs Yuliya Shatun’s patience to grasp and take responsibility for it. Universal anonymity seems to be crying out for help to finally break free from this poverty-driven ennui. Yet when the story shifts to the big city, the crowd is cloaked in fear rather than wonder. Instead of captivating, the city lights almost suggest that we should run and hide. The fiction, which did not begrudge a little humour, dissolves in greater attention to the faceless hordes and even our teacher disappears for a while. Every step you take has a price in this city that raises your hopes by the bucketful before promptly cruelly dashing them. Who is responsible for moderating our dreams? For Yuliya Shatun, looking out of the window, the answer can be perhaps found in the vast, motionless expanses of white that, unlike the city, do not lie. FIDMarseille
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