January 13, 2005
The Corridor, 1995
In a (relatively) climactic episode that occurs near the hour mark of The Corridor, the residents of a working-class tenement in the metropolitan city of Vilnius in Lithuania congregate on the passageway near the common kitchen to socialize with other tenants and, enlivened by the melancholic (often foreign) pop ballads on the radio (and perhaps fueled by a few too many alcoholic beverages), begin to dance aimlessly and uninhibitedly through the animated, dingy, crowded room. It is an image that recalls the delirious, extended sequence shot of the villagers' euphoric (or perhaps somnambulistic) tavern dance in Béla Tarr's contemporary film Sátántangó, an intoxicated display of revelry and reckless abandon that the cruel, troubled girl Estike watches through the window with inscrutable bemusement. Similar to Tarr, Bartas' cinematic view of post-communist Eastern Europe is one of soullessness, moral ambiguity, and profound desolation. Composed of long takes of indirect gazes and oppressively alienated temps morts (where an eclectic assembly of anonymous residents alternately stare out the window, smoke a cigarette, handle their rifle, voyeuristically peep, awkwardly flirt, become inebriated, and even mischievously set on fire laundry that has been hanging on a clothesline), the fragmented, collage-like portraits of the tenants are interstitially connected through the recurring image of the building's dimly lit hallways, a visual metaphor for a culture adrift and in transition - a conduit to an undefined destination. Like Tarr's seminal film, the deliberative and transfixing long takes of The Corridor similarly embody the emergence of a characteristically austere and languidly paced "cinema of waiting" in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet bloc: a figurative reflection of the crippling inertia borne of spiritual bankruptcy and directional uncertainty after years of pervasive government interference. It is this existential limbo of failed, repressive Cold War policies and stalled socio-economic progress that is inevitably captured in the impassive faces of the silent, disconnected residents - a sense of confusion and entrapment amidst the new-found freedom derived from the indirect liberation of defeated abandonment - a demoralized collective psyche foundering in the obsolescence of an elusive and crumbled ideology.