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KARLOVY VARY 2024 Special Screenings

Review: The Song of Others – A Search for Europe


- Vadim Jendreyko goes looking for the high ideal of Europe in this hybrid film blending personal video essay and documentary

Review: The Song of Others – A Search for Europe

What does it mean to be European? What is Europe? In his documentary The Song of Others – A Search for Europe [+see also:
interview: Vadim Jendreyko
film profile
, which screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Special Screenings section after its world premiere in Visions du Réel, Vadim Jendreyko goes off in search of clues to answer this question. Having grown up along the riverbanks of the Rhine, he is aware these waters, which are a source of joy and bathing for him, were, not too long ago, the bloody final frontier between opposing armies and conflict. But what kind of Europe will he discover today?

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The continent’s namesake, Europa, the princess “with broad vision” whom Zeus carried off having taken the form of a bull, might be the only one capable of such foresight. While travelling the continent, Jendreyko finds new war zones and fences separating peoples, turbo-charged capitalistic agendas bleeding into politics, and nationalistic cleansing of areas where there once was diversity. Divided into three parts named Digging, Reading the Stones and Rooted in Time, the chapters deal with the past, the present and the future of Europe and its people.

Jendreyko mixes photographs of these trips with his own personal videos and historic archive footage, all the while pondering the state of Europe by way of a voice-over. The destinations of his journeys and the focal points of his inquiries are hardly surprising. In Digging, when talking about the wars which divided the continent, he travels to Belgium to observe an ammunition team dig and dismantle old shells from long gone World War I trenches. In Poland, he participates in a tour of the ruins of the Wolf’s Lair: Adolf Hitler’s old bunker and the epicentre of some of his most gruesome decisions.

In Reading the Stones, he joins a geological expedition in Greece, uncovering the stone layers of an ever-changing continent. In the ruins of old Agora, a tour guide points out the strict demarcation between the space where politics happen and the space where daily life takes place. These days, Jendreyko explains, economics and market efficiency have taken over politics. In Rooted in Time, he contrasts the last primaeval forest in Poland with the ethnic cleansing in the Balkan nations. He compares how important biodiversity is and how little diversity these countries still have.

Doing the rounds of European history, exploring the best-known and most obvious zones of conflict, the film hardly adds anything new or original to the premise. But the question in itself, the enthusiasm with which Jendreyko speaks of the idea of Europe, fully engages the viewer. And the investigative footage, such as the visit to the border fence in Hungary during the refugee crisis, really makes for some thrilling scenes. What constitutes Europe? Jendreyko doesn’t really have an answer. But his search to provide a response makes for an engaging journey.

The Song of Others – A Search for Europe is produced by Switzerland’s Mira Film, in co-production with SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen and SRG SSR.

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