Preceding Marat Sarulu’s feature film, My Brother Silk Road is the filmmaker’s short film, The Fly-Up, a quiet observation of a factory furnace worker’s idyllic afternoon of rest as he attempts to escape the oppressiveness of his existence by taking a nap on the rooftop, watching a beautiful young neighbor as she paints her house, then traveling to the top of a mountain overlooking the town in order to fly his homemade paraglider. The Fly-Up is a simple and subtle, yet understatedly metaphoric film on imagination and transcendence.
My Brother Silk Road
Incorporating two intersecting situational narratives, My Brother Silk Road is an exquisite, intelligently constructed, and richly textured snapshot of a transitional human experience. The film begins with a group of small children as they follow an older boy on a playful exploration through the vast forest of their remote agrarian mountain village. The older boy leads the children to the steppes where he reveals the romantic history of the train tracks as having been built on what had formerly been the silk road trade route. The story then shifts perspective to the occupants of a transnational train: a middle-aged train employee who once followed a lover aboard the train and has figuratively been unable to leave ever since; her daughter, a young woman who has decided to abandon school and join a group of aimless, Western pop culture-addicted bohemians; a struggling, pensive, and idealistic artist who offers quick sketch, pencil portraits to passengers for money. With equal measures of affectionate whimsy and social realism, the film is an acutely observed composition of people in emotional transition as they search for community, reconciliation, and transcendence.
The screening of My Brother Silk Road was followed by an extended Q&A session with filmmaker Marat Sarulu, where he explained that his preferred literal film title is The Golden Pheasant, a reference to a sophist tale of the titular birds that were once driven from paradise and would spend their lifetime attempting to return to it. Within this allegorical context, the characters in the film fall into three distinct phases: the innocence of the young children represent the birds residing in paradise; the train employees are the disillusioned birds searching for a way back (most notably in the train employee’s encounter with a former classmate – now a shepherd – who was once in love with her); the artist and the older boy are the birds in existential transition, having been literally and figuratively dislocated from paradise.
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