This review also appears over at Memorable TV.
An ethereally beautiful picture, Silent Souls (or Ovsyanki in the original Russian) is a triumphant cry for human love, life and dignity. It is also an amazing insight into a culture few of us will have had any real experience of. Working as a kind of visual treatise on the whims, inconsistencies and eccentricities of what it is to be human, it is a remarkable film and one that stays in the mind long after the final credits.
Centred on the physical and emotional geography of the Meryan people, a Finno-Ugric tribe based in North-Western Russia, the film primarily concerns Miron and Aist, two middle aged friends coming to terms with the sudden death of Miron’s young wife Tanya. As is customary in their culture, they embark on a journey of hundreds of miles in order to deliver her body to a sacred lake. Along the way, they take part in ‘toasting’, an ancient custom deriving from the need to commemorate the dead by regaling the listener with deeply personal details of their sex lives.
So far, so graphic. But Silent Souls is a deeply sensitive work, showing the need for interaction of all kinds and how we stay close in order to stay sane. An unforgettable film, beautifully realised.