DOCSBARCELONA: In cinematography freedom plays the main part. For Audrius Stony, it is more important than any aesthetic criterion.

Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller
Previous founder/editor of the DOX magazine.
Published date: May 16, 2019

The renowned, many times awarded Lithuanian director Audrius Stonys is in focus at this year’s edition of DocsBarcelona. The film Bridges of Time is shown, that he has directed together with Latvian Kristine Briede. It is an essay on the Baltic Poetic Cinema, a tradition that Stonys himself continues.

The festival arranges every year a masterclass with the title «7 Shots 7», where a director is asked to pick clips/shots from his/her oeuvre. Audrius Stonys does so following in the footsteps of names like Talal Derki, Pawel Lozinski, Michael Glawogger, Sean MacAllister and Avi Mograbi.

Modern Times Review will in this respect publish here some extracts from notes made by Tue Steen Müller meeting Stonys some years ago (see below)

In response to a seemingly perplexing question: «Who makes your films?» Stonys said: «Recently, I visited a doctor because I had problems with my back. And for only fifteen minutes of work he asked for a lot of money. Sure, he fixed me up, but he is my friend. So I wondered why the heck he was asking so much. This is what he said: ‘Look, those fifteen minutes contained all the years of my practical training, all the books I have read plus the experience of my professors who have shared their knowledge with me.’ And my films are also the result of the work of many souls.» (18-02-2013)

Stonys portrays empathy

«No words, I don’t trust them.» Audrius Stonys made a lecture this morning. I have heard him doing so many times and have written several praising sentences on filmkommentaren.dk – about this filmmaker who is for sure to be considered as a national poet in his own country, and from a world perspective as an excellent representative of a different documentary cinema.

Audrius Stony

The biggest censors are inside yourself, Stonys said, who grew up in a country occupied by the big empire and who did not really see films in general getting better after the independence. He said so after another pleasant view of the Herz Frank film 10 Minutes Older (1978). «I truly believe that film is a conversation between equal partners», Stonys continued, «the audience takes part in the creative process, as this meeting is the most important part of the filmmaking.»

«I don’t believe in films without mistakes», he said and went on to show a clip from his own Flying over Blue Fields, where a sport aeroplane lands on a field, a man gets out, parks the plane and goes inside, while the camera observes chicken and bushes accompanied by music. «No words, I don’t trust them», Stonys said, and showed another clip, from his early work, Earth of the Blind, that has no words at all. I want to catch the impossible. He could also have said the invisible and the emotions in a face, like he demonstrated in the film from 2000, Alone, a film in many layers. This one is about a girl that visits her mother who is in prison, a film crew that is (the director’s words) «using» her, and an atmosphere of melancholy – a feeling that is present in most of Stonys films. He did not show films from recent years. He could have done so – and demonstrated that he can also cope with words as he did in The Bell. (25-06-2009)

The sorrow of reaction

Alone by Audrius Stonys

– A film that leaves me so utterly incapable of objecting, of imagining other solutions. By colleague Allan Berg Nielsen.

In 1995, Stonys came out with Antigravitacija («Anti-gravitation», 1995)  –  about our longing to overcome what keep us on the ground. For a long time, Stonys had wanted famous Lithuanian cinematographer Jonas Gricius to photograph a film for him. He had finally succeeded.

And what wonderful pictures! We are moved into the beautiful old tradition of large black-and-white 35 mm film sequences where every shot is considered down to the last detail. Stonys subsequently pursues this artistic deliberateness by putting every single scene into a perfectly harmonious context, whose authenticity I thoroughly accept. A soundless work. I have rarely experienced a film that leaves me so utterly incapable of objecting, of imagining other solutions. This film is definitively finished.

But what’s it really aboutAn old woman who forces her way up the longest ladder I have ever seen.?

Like his previous films, Stonys portrays empathy. At the 1991 festival, he brought his film called Atverti duris ateinanciam («Open the Door to Him Who Comes», 1989). Like Neregiu Zeme, it is photographed in the same dignified and old-fashioned manner, 35 mm film, black and white, features shared by subsequent films.

Harbour by Audrius Stonys

With Harbour from the 1998 festival, he finally brings colour into his meditation on body and water. The film’s setting is public baths. Its plot is purification. It also describes a pastor in a remote parish who is visited by people, from large cities too, because of the peace of mind and answers the big questions he gives them. The other film portrayed people without sight in a world of sounds and dim contours, and changing degrees of light and darkness. Reflecting, almost wordless, states of mind. Dreaming, they yearn for existential relics. Dismal tones, will the project succeed?

Dreaming, they yearn for existential relics.

Stonys’ manuscript for the gravitation film demanded that the crew had to shoot sequences for at least a year, because as a matter of course the scenes jump from snow-covered landscapes to sweltering village streets in spring, from spring floods to a sleigh in crunchy frost. And the young director pulled the fine old cinematographer, who here made his first documentary, up to heights, on roof scaffolding, on high railway bridges and at the very pinnacle of church towers. Because the pictures must show us how the world looks from these man-made structures reaching to the heavens. The film’s heroine is an old woman who forces her way up the longest ladder I have ever seen to the tip of the spire on the village church. At the very top she gazes out on summer landscapes. The next clip shows us, very correctly, the scene from her angle, but now it is in the bitter cold of winter. She climbs up there all year round. We don’t know why, she does it out of necessity.


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