Piligrimai [Pilgrims] (2021)

Director: Laurynas Bareisa
Writer: Laurynas Bareisa
Cast: Gabija Bargailaite, Giedrius Kiela, Jolanta Dapkunaite, Zygimante Jakstaite, Paulius Markevicius, Indre Patkauskaite, Julius Zalakevicius
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) haven’t seen each other for years. Not since Paulius’ brother who was also Indre’s boyfriend was murdered a few years ago. The murderer was caught and there is detailed documentation about what happened. Now Indre and Paulius have decided to retrace what happened that night. But whether that brings the necessary clarity or closure is unclear.

Pilgrims is an interesting film that often left me a little puzzled about the reactions of its characters. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing, or something else, but it reinforced the effect of the film for me. It doesn’t quite manage to keep the tension all the way through, but it works for the most part.

The film poster showing Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) standing next to a car in the rain. The ground is covered in water and there are mirror images of them in it, but switched around, Indre mirroring Paulius and vice versa.

Pilgrims throws you in cold. At first, you don’t know how Indre and Paulius relate to each other, nor do you know what exactly happened to their brother/former boyfriend. This sense of disorientation remained throughout the film for me, even as things become a little clearer. Particularly difficult to understand for me were the reactions of the people around Indre and Paulius who witness their pilgrimage and that are somewhere between being helpful and aggressive, with a bit of cruelty. It’s not that I can’t make sense of their behavior, but rather that it seems very alien and counterintuitive to me.

It’s very possible that it is a question of cultural difference, but I can also see this as a purposeful choice to make the audience relate more to Indre and Paulius who so desperately want to understand what happened, but can’t, not really. Not in their hearts. It puts the audience in the same position as them.

Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) holding on to Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) who is lying on the floor wrapped in a sheet from head to toe.

Bargailaite and Kiela are really excellent. Their characters are pushed through an emotional rollercoaster that is never comfortable, and they seamlessly transition from bewilderment to grief to anger to frustration and all shades inbetween those emotions. You can see how their wounds are still open and bleeding, and that there is little chance that it will ever close properly again.

There are times in the movie where the film lags a little, though, where the pacing just isn’t right, or where it loses the emotional intensity. Those moments slow the film down a little too much and keep it from fulfilling its potential completely. But it is nevertheless engaging and has a lot to offer.

Indre (Gabija Bargailaite) and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela) about to buy a car, looking at its trunk.

Summarizing: worth checking out.

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