Touching Russian movie, “Silent Souls,” is a story about a man, his friend, his dead wife and two small bunting birds. It tells a tale of tradition, loss and eventual rebirth and finding of oneself.
And, is definitely worth watching.
Directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko and written by Denis Osokin, “Silent Souls,” other wise called, “The Buntings” in the direct translation from Russian. It focuses on three people from a small Russian town, Meyra.
Meyra used to be a Finno-Ugric tribe long ago, and now only a few key traditions remain to mark them as who they used to be. Aist Sergeyev, played by actor Igor Sergeev, narrates your way through their story. He joins his friend and co-worker Miron Zaytsev, played by Yuriy Tsurilo, on a journey to bury Miron’s beloved wife Tanya Zaytsev, who was acted by Yuliya Aug.
The small bunting birds join us in the first scene as you see them in their cage on a bike. Aist tells of his childhood and father. A single middle-aged man working at a paper company in central Russia Aist tries to find meaning in his culture and find the traditions lost to time of the Meyra culture.
When his friend Miron calls him to his office, they have a drink. And in the stoic way of Russians Miron tells Aist that his beloved wife Tanya had died. Following one of the last Meyra traditions he asks for Aist’s help in preparing her for death.
As they prepare her body, Aist tells us of what the Meyra people did to prepare their beloveds for death. Mourning at the loss of his culture, they clean her and start their journey to the river where Miron and Tanya had their honeymoon. But not before Aist picks up his birds.
The journey is mostly silent, the two men in silence grieving together. Miron tells stories of Tanya that he wouldn’t have told if she were alive, while Aist explains in his narrative that this was all a part of the ceremonial process known as smoking. In between the stops to get supplies for the cremation Aist speaks more of his childhood and father. And the loss he experienced from his death.
After Tanya’s cremation Miron, Aist, and the two buntings, head back to their town. Although they live in Russia Aist feels out of place, in a land not his own. He talks of how the Meyra people thought that death to water was immortality to them, that when their loved ones died they committed their ashes to the water.
Freeing them of the burdens of life, which fits for when they were crossing the great Meyran river to their hometown, the buntings escape, causing a crash and the deaths of Miron and Aist. Aist keeps narrating for use, speaking of how Miron went immediately looking for Tanya and Aist, well he found his father and his place in the world.
The filming in this piece was astounding, the extended scenes that were question marks until a while later when they tied in the film and became exclamation marks were brilliantly executed. Igor Sergeev and Yuriy Tsurilo acted wonderfully and grabbed your attention bringing you into the film. The emotions of the characters and forlorn atmosphere of the scenery was exuding from the film and tangled with the audience.
The final scene with the crash was the complete opposite of the film, instead of the quiet serene sadness of the rest of the film, the abruptness of the birds and frazzled style of filming jolted viewer out of the movie and caused quite an adrenaline rush.
This movie is sad, bitterly broken as well as sincere. I would definitely recommend the viewing of this film. If you are in the mood for a sad movie this is the perfect one, even if you aren’t it is still a brilliantly performed, filmed, and directed movie and I highly recommend it.