“Memory and time mean nothing at all here.” A line spoken in the early moments of Elixir epitomises the film’s fractured narrative and captivating thematic design, all presented through a poetic image system that lures viewer participation into an abyssal question of life and death.
Amid the complexity is a handful of individuals, seemingly decaying as a civilisation in a world indifferent to human existence. A scientist presents the possibility of surviving death through an elixir, one that can only be completed by the inclusion of DNA found in the scattered heroes of the tale. Each, including the scientist, can be recognised as symbolic archetypes of Russian fairytale and mythology.
A lack of understanding for Russian mythology should not cause apprehension, as it becomes obvious that the critical character in Elixir is nature. Much like the heroes, the viewer is held in a state of awe, the effect exploited to its full extent by a fixed long take perspective. Characters within the frame are reduced to minuscule importance, causing the audience to avert their eyes and seek answers elsewhere.
Director Daniil Zinchenko is noted for taking heavy influence from Russian painter Georgy Shishkin’s landscape paintings, displaying the mystical and incomprehensible identification of the forest. His main focus in Elixir surfaces from mankind’s lack of comprehension, as can be seen in the characters’ pursuit of controlling and overcoming death. The necessity for conclusive fact hints towards their misfortune.
Symbolism from Christianity and Cosmism soaks through Elixir, allowing for an intertextual reading that develops with each viewing. Zinczenko’s background sits in this nonlinear approach to storytelling. Past short films use similar methods of visual poetry, disjointed narration and repetition – an avant-garde mentality positioning itself away from popular Russian critical-realism.
Although Elixir is ripe for heavy analysis, much of its beauty can be found in the tangible aesthetic of the environment. The importance lies perhaps not in answering certain questions, but in leaving them open to endless possibility.
Elixir does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2016 visit here
Watch the trailer for Elixir here:
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