Metaphysical Documentarist Arunas Matelis

The cinematography of the Baltic states ceases to be a place „where the lions live“ in the Czech context. Though the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian films do not enter distribution, they have not escaped the attention of festival programmers. One of the 2010 Karlovy Vary festival awards went to the Lithuanian film The River/Upe. It is only good that the Docalliancefilms portal also keeps expanding its selection of the documentary film production of the Baltic states.

This month, several Lithuanian films will be presented on the portal, with most of the space devoted to the works by contemporary, very active and more and more renowned Lithuanian director and producer, documentarist Arunas Matelis. He may not be the „easiest“ personality for the audiences to grasp and for the portal to choose for the introduction to Lithuanian documentary; however, his works have been quite influential in Lithuanian cinematography. One of his very first short films, Ten Minutes before the Flight of Icarus, is considered as a kind of manifesto of post-Soviet documentary by a whole generation of directors.
Matelis’s approach to film can be compared to the works by other remarkable personalities of Baltic documentary presented in the portal selection (Matelis’s generation contemporary, Lithuanian Audrius Stonys or Latvian Laila Pakalnina). All of them are captured by the flow of “common” everyday life around us, however, each of them explores it in a different way. While e.g. Pakalnina is an accurate and patient observer of details (which enabled her to make films such as Dreamland, finding unexpectedly rich life at a waste dump), Matelis composes images of everydayness in a sophisticated way, showing the affinity of everyday reality with the invisible dimensions of higher spheres. The metaphysical orientation of his works is obvious already from the titles of his films, including terms such as Gospel, Jerusalem, Icaros, or Paradise. A paradise of every day, an invisible one that can only be sensed behind what can be seen, heard, touched. That is why films like those by Matelis are made; to reveal dimensions that are hidden in our world; films with an unusual structure and montage, suppressing the narrative line and puzzling us in various ways. Although the film images were certainly taken from reality, it is impossible to get oriented in the concrete space and time. This is done not to confuse the viewers nor to play with their attention but to point out that the concrete events taking place before the camera are not what matters. The viewers’ attention should move on “behind” the presented images, realizing the birth of associations in their head and exploring them. Matelis describes an encounter with a French film programmer who was very unsatisfied with the screening of his film Sunday. The Gospel According to Lift-man Albertas. She found the film very depressing. It made her feel bad, there was not a trace of hope left. The director’s reaction was the same as the spirit of his works. It is not enough to merely watch the film in the cinema or on the screen, one also has to look back at the film work with a transformed experience, to look back at the reality around us, and then explore one’s feelings again. There might really be no hope in the film; since hope is only born after the film ends, in the dark, when the light of the projector is turned off.

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