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Friday, October 23, 2020


Director Sharunas Bartas focuses on gloomy, candle-lit interiors, long pauses between comments and faces frozen in anguish. (Review by Patrick Compton. The film will feature on the programme of the European Film Festival which runs from November 12 to 22, 2020)

This film – which is certainly not a traditional war movie – is aptly named: both visually and psychologically it is the darkest of works and the pace is, for the most part, studied (some would say that's a polite word for ponderous).

Set in the wintry forests of Lithuania in 1948, the film offers a grim portrait of toxic relationships within a rural community, not to mention their oppression at the hands of Stalin’s brutal colonising Russians after the conclusion of World War 2.

Director Sharunas Bartas focuses on gloomy, candle-lit interiors, long pauses between comments and faces frozen in anguish. There’s also plenty of mournful cello on the soundtrack, ramming home the miserabilist atmosphere.

In truth, the people have little to celebrate. The peasant folk are dirt poor, and it doesn’t help that the Soviet military are looking to fleece them of everything they do have.

The action is largely seen through the eyes of 19-year-old Unte (Marius Martynenko) who lives with his adoptive father, Pliauga (Arvydas Dapsys), a relatively well-off farmer in the neighbourhood. Pliauga has a bitter estranged wife (Alina Zalinkaite-Ramanauskiene) and, all the while, the Russians are threatening, seemingly helped by traitors within the community who seek to benefit from informing on their comrades.

The second half of this two-hour film focuses largely on a group of partisans hiding out in the forest, and their impending clash with the Russian military.

The outdoor shots have a severe beauty, a relief from the dusky interiors, with the snow-clad forests, deer and birds beautifully captured by cinematographer Eitvydas Doskus. And, after all the early navel-gazing, there are some climactic action scenes between the partisans and the Russian military.

Bartas’s vision is a chilly one, in more ways than one, hardly surprising when you consider that Stalin’s forces killed more than 20,000 partisans between 1944 and 1953 before the dictator’s death, while more than 120,000 people were deported to gulag camps in Siberia and elsewhere.

It’s a relief to know that the worst of the dark clouds have finally lifted from the Baltic nation, part of the “bloodlands” during the Stalin-Hitler years. Lithuania finally achieved its second independence (after the first in 1918) in 1990/1 and is now a member of NATO.

It has to be said, though, that rather like life at the time, this slow-moving movie is often hard work for the viewer.

(The movie is in Lithuanian and Russian with English subtitles).  - Patrick Compton

In the Dusk can be seen from November 12 to 22, 2020, on the European Film Festival’s website. Click on the advert to the right of this article or visit