Mayak [The Lighthouse] (2006)

Director: Mariya Saakyan
Writer: Givi Shavgulidze
Cast: Anna Kapaleva, Olga Yakovleva, Sos Sargsyan, Sofiko Chiaureli, Ruzana Avetisyan, Mikhail Bogdasarov, Sergei Daniyelyan, Anastasiya Grebennikova, Albina Matveyeva, Mikhail Silantev
Seen on: 15.9.2021

It’s the 90s and Lena (Anna Kapaleva) is returning to her home village in Armenia for the first timme in a long time. She is visiting her grandparents (Olga Yakovleva, Sos Sargysan) who have stayed behind in the village despite it being in the middle of a warzone. Lena tries desperately to convince them to go away to safety with her. Instead, Lena stays longer and longer than she anticipated.

Mayak is a melancholic piece if cinema that shows us the daily routine of war for the people who aren’t really involved in it. It isn’t always easy to watch, but it is very interesting.

The film poster showing a childish drawing of a house and a figure walking towards it over a red path through a wave of water.

Watching Mayak felt a bit like going into a bubble. There is a certain detachment in the film that seems perfectly representative of what it must feel like to live in a village that has to live with the possibility of the war coming to its doorsteps everyday, but not feeling like its their own war (despite the fact that many villagers have to fight in it).

Much like the villagers, information about what happens outside the bubble is sparse. The outside comes in quick, disruptive bursts, and the rest of the time, things just go on as usual. Or as much as usual as possible.

Lena (Anna Kapaleva) returning to her village, dragging a suitcase behind her.

The way the film tells its story in glimpses, but also the way it is shot in muted colors, often foggy images and a perpetual feeling of the last days of fall in the air reinforce that bubble feeling, as if the village was entirely separated from the rest of the world. And it kind of is, as Lena has to learn. It’s not easy to get out of the bubble once you’re in it.

It’s an impressive film for sure, but it’s not one that gives itself easily to the audience, despite some humorous moments. You have to fight a little bit to get into the bubble it creates. But the fight pays off, if you ask me.

A woman carrying a baby away from a burning house.

Summarizing: interesting for sure.

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