Lithuanian historical psychological drama Isaac nears the end of shooting
by Martin Kudláč
- The Holocaust drama helmed by Jurgis Matulevičius also echoes the highly topical issues of freedom, guilt and immigration
Emerging Lithuanian director Jurgis Matulevičius is close to wrapping principal photography for his feature debut, Isaac. It has been more than five years in the making, and only a couple of shooting days are left to finish in Ukraine in April, although editing has already begun. Matulevičius is adapting a short story by Lithuanian writer Antanas Škėma, and the screenplay was co-written by Nerijus Milerius and Saulė Bliuvaitė. This is the first time that the story by Škėma, a Lithuanian in exile in the United States, has been adapted for the big screen.
In 1941, Lithuanian activist Andrius Gluosnis kills a Jew, Isaac, in the Lietūkis garage massacre. Years later in Soviet Lithuania, Gluosnis’ film director friend Gutauskas returns from the USA to make a film about the massacre. While researching the details for the film, he finds out that his friend was not just a passive bystander. Gluosnis’ life begins to crumble during the preparations for the film, his guilt torturing him until he understands that he has to make peace with the victim. Severuja Janusauskaite, recently seen in the acclaimed German television series Babylon Berlin, stars as the female lead.
Isaac, a co-production between Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland, is a psychological drama composed of long takes, lensed by Narvydas Naujalis. “This film reflects not just Lithuanian history, but also the worldwide history of this painful period called the Holocaust. We start our film in 1941, so it's World War II, which had an impact all over Europe – not only on Jewish people, but also on Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Roma, French, Soviet and German people. Later on, the movie continues in Soviet times, which reminds us of where our world is headed now. We are going back to giving our freedom to somebody who is going to take control of it,” the director elaborates. The movie also addresses the timely topic of immigration. “It's a film about learning to forgive, and educating others and ourselves about forgiveness,” he concludes.
“I want the film to have the biggest exposure possible in the territories of Eastern Europe, where the Holocaust had an immense impact, exterminating the Jewish population and leaving deep scars in the historical and cultural memories of the nations that committed or collaborated in that crime. While the film is not about the Holocaust per se, it is about the guilt haunting a human person after a crime committed on another human,” says producer Stasys Baltakis, adding that he hopes Isaac will visit major festivals after the post-production work is completed in June.
Isaac is being produced by Stasys Baltakis of Lithuanian company Film Jam, and co-produced by Vitaliy Sheremetiev and Natalia Libet of Ukraine’s Esse House and Kuba Kosma for Polish company Takfilm. The Lithuanian Film Fund is supporting the project, and its sales agent is currently being negotiated.
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