Visually impressionistic, atmospherically dense, and narratively opaque, Oriental Elegy is the surreal journey of a displaced spirit (Aleksandr Sokurov) as he wanders in the interminable darkness through the temporal landscape of a quaint and isolated feudal-era fishing village. Guided by a series of faintly illuminated rooms, the wandering spirit comes upon ancient souls who take on physical forms as they recount their personal stories of daily existence, loss, and tragedy in the peasant community. Intrigued by his initial visit to a curiously distracted elderly woman, the spirit returns to her home in order to ask a fundamental question – “What is happiness?” – an existential query that is innocently answered with innate humility and accepted unknowingness. Through abstractly textured imagery and indelibly hypnotic dreamscapes, Sokurov composes a metaphoric, sensual, and evocative tone poem on a soul’s search for enlightenment and the essential survival of human consciousness.
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