REHABILITATION: In viewing Vilnius prisoners serving life sentences, Exemplary Behaviour examines the paradox between justice and forgiveness.

Lauren Wissot
Lauren Wissot is a US film critic and journalist, filmmaker and programmer, and a contributing editor at both "Filmmaker" magazine and "Documentary" magazine. She's served as the director of programming at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and has written for Salon, Bitch, The Rumpus and Hammer to Nail among other online publications.
Published date: October 26, 2019

Exemplary Behaviour

Audrius MickeviciusNerijus Milerius

Rasa Miškinyte

Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy

Audrius Mickevičius and Nerijus Milerius’s Exemplary Behaviour is a highly cinematic, surprising look at the Lithuanian prison system through a very complicated lens. With powerful images and an evocative, often ambient sound design, the directors manage to create a work that feels quasi-religious in both spirit and tone.

A sacred quest

The film begins with the Mickevičius himself, who serves as voiceover narrator and on-camera guide, revealing the personal tragedy that brought him to the topic of incarceration in the first place – the murder of his older brother by two men, one of whom ended up taking full responsibility and received a decade-long sentence. After a mere five years, however, the killer was released due to, as the doc’s title alludes to, his «exemplary behaviour».

Here is where things take a turn for the unexpected, starting with another admission by the director/narrator – specifically that he’s chosen the path of forgiveness, of «embracing the pain». The stream-of-consciousness scenes that follow – from lifers operating machinery in the prison workshop, to a French philosopher (and former inmate) expounding on life behind bars, to surveillance footage – add up to a kind of inner journey made visible, a sacred quest.

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