Onto the next MAMI release and I finished watching the Lithuanian film Slow which is Lithuana’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards. One thing that I have liked about MAMI is the inclusion of films from across the globe that includes the ones sent to the Academy Awards. And while it wouldn’t be possible to catch all of them, I have shortlisted the ones which seem promising and can be worked out in my schedule. Coming to Slow, there was a decent buzz around the film in the MAMI circuit that prompted me to take the plunge. Having previously premiered at the prestigeous Sundance festival, I was keen on what the film had to offer while being completely oblivious of its subject. And to put it on record, this is the first film from Lithuania that I have ever watched. So then does Slow manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Slow follows the story of two individuals who form a bond and explore the intricacies of intimacy and love while having to deal with the sexuality each other. The story is delicate and builds on a very sensitive issue while tactfully tackling the complexities of a modern day relationship. And this is what makes the film beautiful in many ways given its organic and practical approach to the subject. The screenplay standing at a timid runtime of just over a 100 minutes does take you on a gentle little roller coaster with respect to the psyche of the two protagonists while focusing primarily on their budding relationship that they try to groom through their share of mutual trust, companionship and intimacy.
The drama opens with the introduction of one of the protagonists, Elena who is making love with a stranger whom she has supposedly met for the first time. On being asked to utter the words, ‘I Love You’ in order to get turned on, she stutters for a while before finally giving in. This scene did give an insight into the psyche of the protagonist who wishes to balance love and intimacy without having to compromise on either. Soon, you are introduced to the other protagonist Dovydas, a sign language interpretor for whom Elena falls head over heels. There is definitely a spark between the two individuals that promises for a brighter future for both of them until Dovydas communicates that he is asexual and may not be compatible with Elena in terms of their intimacy quotient.
The drama explores the various levels of intimacy along with the complexities of their relationship beautifully. There is a deft thought integrated almost as an after-taste on how important intimacy can be, and whether love without intimacy can actually survive. And as is the case with every relationship, it is a journey of compromises while wanting to stick on with each other through thick and thin, often supporting each other emotionally. The proceedings are wonderfully organic and put a lasting smile on your face during the initial period of their budding relationship wherein the two individuals are only getting to know each other. Yet, the insecurities trickle in at the back-end of the drama that has a pragmatic tone to the events.
The events leading to the final act deal with a lot of issues including the identity politics while having to nurture a relationship which was seemingly flawed in the first place. The idea of an open relationship is briefly floated as well while you are privy to the growing distance between the two individuals. The final act is heartbreaking and hits all the emotions beautifully while extending a practical approach with a painstakingly practical solution to the problem. And life goes on, doesn’t it? Overall, the screenplay is beautifully penned while exploring many complex themes throughout the narrative.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and the lines felt so organic, almost fluttering across the blue sky on a pleasantly windy day. The music and the BGM blend beautifully with the drama, also adding depth and intricacy to the proceedings. The cinematography opts for an edgy approach with extreme closeups that helps you get up and personal with the characters. Also, the shaking frames at times is representative of the turmoil of various characters. The editing is sharp.and crisp. Director Marija Kavtaradzė explores a rather complicated subject with utmost sensitivity. And a woman’s gaze here did give a fresh perspective while adding layers of empathy and care to the proceedings. The direction is excellent here wherein Marija has also the ability to create deft and heartfelt moments along the way.
The performances are incredibly good. While all actors fit the bill perfectly, the show does belong to Greta Grinevičiūė as Elena and Kęstutis Cicėnas as Dovydas. The duo share a heartfelt chenistry between the two that would put a wide smile on your face while you secretly root for them to end up together. Yet, the vulnerabilities and insecurities that the two of them showcase, was beautifully expressed through their emotions which were also contrasting. Elena did wish to explore given her nature of being a free bird, but she kept coming back to Dovydas due to her love for the latter. This, while Dovydas is emotionally guilty of having ‘caged’ Elena thereby wishing that she stays happy even without him. And both of them, feed off each other beautifully throughout the film.
As a part of our MAMI coverage, Lithuania’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards this year, Slow is a subtly nuanced drama exploring the complexities of love and intimacy in what was a wonderfully heartfelt watch.