• International Competition



Deimantas Narkevičius

Since the 1990s, Deimantas Narkevicius has been challenging the order of time and history and the evidence of images and stories. This costume drama takes us to Lithuania at the end of the 19th century one summer afternoon in the countryside. An entire microcosm bustles about in the woods, fields and sheep shed: an old governess, some young women, a musician with failing eyesight, a dead woman… along with fairies, elves and spirits. As a local scholar tries out stereoscopic viewing, which was in vogue at the time, we’re invited to put on 3D glasses to enjoy this journey through images. From one viewing device to another, Deimantas Narkevicius has fun destabilising our expectations. Magic, images, appearances – who believes who? Who sees what? Is film illusion? If so, why not take the paradox further? Perspective? Narkevicius cheerfully inverts it, playing with the improbable scales of the characters moving through the landscape, thwarting the effects usually sought from 3D. The crossover of enchantment techniques is used to create a poetics and politics of the image. Twittering Soul’s imagery-fuelled retelling of folk tales blends pre-modern thought and practice with technologies past and present in a way that goes against the mainstream. Free of nostalgia, in a marvellous tone, this fable about belief challenges modernity using modernity itself and its own tools, whilst continuing to make use of what it thinks it’s shrugged off.

Nicolas Feodoroff

As an artist, your work combines video, installation and sculpture, and questions both image and history. How did this “costume” film project come about?

Twittering Soul is a psychedelic fairytale based on archival records wherein witchcraft and conjuring were documented as part of everyday life, albeit largely hidden from the community and particularly from the authorities. Now we could say it is a life in a more mutually-responsive relationship with nature, resistant to exhausting, polluting modernisation, wild but not backward, sexually undefined and critical of colonial politics. It is a story visualised in settings of another time.

What interested you in setting the action at the end of the 19th century?

At that time, nations that had been part of empires for a long time began to restore half-forgotten myths, looking for unique stories that could support the foundations of their existence and the formation of the necessary institutions. Miraculous tales, collective rites that keep emotions calm at crises, fables and anecdotes created a parallel history of people, for whom worship of nature opposed the dogmas of the Orthodox Church.

A fiction, but also between 3D and stereoscopic views, the question of images and representation permeates the film. 

The second half of the 19th century is largely captured by stereoscopic photography. For me, this is a more reliable format for authenticating images. Making stereoscopic photo collages in an analogue way is incomparably more difficult. The third dimension corresponds more closely to human vision, we have two eyes after all. This format more fully reproduces, for example, a landscape, simultaneously turning it into a model, where each object has its own volume. This format, which appeared at the dawn of photography, can beautify the admiration of the medium, especially when we are surrounded by flat images.

The choice of mixing the marvelous dimension and modern devices?

Experimenting with stereoscopy or hologram video over the last eight years for me is a search for a more physical approach to moving images. Even when using conventional 2D projections in art exhibitions artists think about the materiality of digital images appearing in specifically arranged spaces.

A cinema hall is not usually a room for architectural interventions, but a good quality stereoscopic projection fills the space with images coming off the screen surface and floating between a viewer’s glasses. The screen expands its boundaries visually and incorporates cinema space with rows of spectators by layering these two realities. Stereoscopy at once shows the materiality of the moving image and emphasises the artificial construction of that image, just like a visualisation of an architectural model presents a future building more convincingly than precise but dry drawings.

The effect of a moving image will no longer take us back to the days when audiences ran out of the hall to avoid being hit by a train. However, the flat cinema image, even with its astounding content, will increasingly compete with additional dimensional images in the future again. Therefore, I think that this is not only a challenge for cinema, but also an opportunity to refresh the perception of moving image, particularly as the invention of stereoscopy coincided with the very beginnings of cinema.

How did you choose the location ? And how did you conceive the light, the colors which give a very specific tone to the film.

As you see in the film, we were dependent on very natural daylight of Lithuanian, or let’s say already nordic summer, with long evenings and mornings and a quite particular sliding light. 
The constant rhythm of sunshine coming on and off within lightly cloudy sky is present as an independent phenomenon in some scenes, if the Nature breathes as well.

The final colour setting is done during post-production where I was collaborating with experienced WFX and colour grid artist Jonas Zagorskas. Our main challenge was to present variety of green colour within changing landscape: forests meadows and backyards of wooden mansions, to preserve verdure and vitality of vegetation.

In Lithuania we still have quite a few areas were archaic, industry or mechanical agriculture non-intervened landscapes, with little rivers, naturally formed hills and earth valleys. 
I know south of Lithuania quite well. I was living there during my childhood, my farther was a forester there taking care of those woods back in the 70’s. So, I did scouting for the shooting sites myself. After all, it is a fairy tail, so I was looking for places to visualise a pantheistic “heaven on earth”. 

Belief seems also to be at the heart of the film, playing between the visible and the invisible. Your interest in it?

In the cinematic sense, yes. I would like the audience to believe what they see on the screen because they simply do not see it anymore in life. However, you are asking about belief in the supernatural. Having spent a lot of time in the archives, I can confirm that what is reproduced in my film often had signs of phenomena of psychological, medical or meteorological origin, but this in no way diminishes the significance of an individual cosmogony, or simply magic, when it is needed at one or another stage of life. 

The film conveys sometimes obviously, sometimes less, fairy tales and also refers to the history of cinema. Could you enlighten us about this dimension?

Perhaps, the story starts with a similar message from the afterlife as in Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s ‘Earth’. My admiration for non-linear implementations of folktales by Sergey Paradjanov, and emotional interaction by astronaut Kris Kelvin with a levitating human replica of his wife in ‘Solaris’ by Tarkovsky could be seen as parallel to tales of fairies mingling among people. Hitchcockian jangling sound of musical instruments at a climax. Those are just a few cinematic references noticeable in the film. Still, I hope some narratives and statements come from less-known materials for most of the viewers.

Interwieved by Nicolas Feodoroff

  • International Competition

Technical sheet

Egypt, Italy, Germany / 2023 / 17’

Original version: Lithuanian, Polish
Subtitles: English
Script: Deimantas Narkevicius
Photography: Eitvydas Doskus
Editing: Danielius Kokanauskis
Sound: Saulius Urbanavicius
Cast: Auguste Simulynaite, Alekasas Kazanavicius, Saulius Bareikis, Greta Petrovskyte, Laima Akstinaite, Valentinas Krulikovskis

Production: Dagne Vildziunaite (Just a moment)
Contact: Daniele Kuncinaite (Just a moment)

Deimantas Narkevicius (born 1964, Utena, Lithuania) is one of the most consistent and widely recognised Lithuanian artists on the international art scene.
Originally trained as a sculptor, Narkevicius has mainly been working with film and video. Employing documentary footage, voice-overs, interviews, re-enactments and found photographs, his films submit historical events to the narrative structures of storytelling and cinema. In his artistic practice Narkevičius examines the relationship of personal memories to political histories, particularly those of his native Lithuania. For the artist history, itself has become both material and methodology.
Since 1992 Narkevicius has exhibited extensively around the world at some important contemporary art venues and events including Centre Pompidou (Paris), Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid), Tate Modern (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam). He represented Lithuania at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 and two years later exhibited at the 50th Venice Biennale in Utopia Station curated by Molly Nesbit and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
His films were screened and awarded at such festivals as BFI London International Film Festival (Stains and Scratches, 2018), International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (Stains and Scratches – Main prize, 2018; “20.07.2015” – Special Jury prize, 2017; Revisiting Solaris, 2007, Energy Lithuania, 2003), Berlin International Film Festival (Restricted Sensations, 2002), Vienna International Film Festival Viennale (Scena, 2011), Rotterdam International Film Festival (Restricted Sensations, 2012; Europe 54° 54’ – 25° 19’, His-story, Energy Lithuania, Scena, The Role of Liftime, 2004), Sankt Petersburg International Film Festival Message to Man (Stains and Scratches – Main prize at experimental film section, 2018) and many others.