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Critique : Fragile Memory


- En essayant d’enregistrer les souvenirs de son grand-père avant qu’ils se dissipent complètement, Igor Ivanko compose un documentaire émouvant et riche en informations intéressantes

Critique : Fragile Memory

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

For his first feature-length documentary, Fragile Memory [+lire aussi :
interview : Igor Ivanko
fiche film
, Ukrainian filmmaker Igor Ivanko attempted to record the recollections of his grandfather, renowned cinematographer Leonid Burlaka, before they faded into oblivion due to ageing. Even though he apparently did so a little late, Ivanko has come up with a film that looks back at 50 years of Soviet and Ukrainian cinema, and life in the USSR. The doc recently world-premiered at the Krakow Film Festival and is now screening in Docaviv's international competition.

(L'article continue plus bas - Inf. publicitaire)

Living in Odesa, Burlaka was at the centre of a thriving film industry, with the Odesa Film Studios often being dubbed as the “real birthplace of cinema”. His DoP credits include one of the most expensive Soviet films of all time, 1971's Train to Farewell August, which recounted the defence of the city against Romanian forces during World War II that the cinematographer lived through as a child. Another of his hits was the 1979 crime mini-series The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, at the time a brand-new format, which came to be one of the most beloved and best-known pieces of content. “Every person born in the USSR after 1979 saw it,” says Ivanko in his voice-over.

In the family's summer house, among boxes of old equipment and tools (“He was able to make anything with his hands,” the director recalls), Ivanko discovers 450 rolls of photographic film, damaged by time and inadequate storage. Even though the emulsion is peeling off, the director manages to scan them and show them to his grandpa and grandma. Through a split screen with the photos on one side and the elderly couple's faces on the other, we realise that, along with his sight and hearing, Burlaka's mind is going, and quickly: it's grandma's face on which we register recognition more frequently.

Ivanko patiently asks his grandpa about his life and work, but gets very little out of him – mostly non-committal, one-syllable replies. As the film progresses, it gets worse, and increasingly sad: at one point near the end, the old man doesn't even recognise his own daughter. This is how the film positions melancholy as a counterpoint to nostalgia, resulting in a touching, but also informative, film.

Lacking a real response from his protagonist, Ivanko fills in the gaps with archive footage, photographs and his own voice-over, which guides us through life and the film industry in the USSR. We learn that the famous war spectacles depicting the German-Soviet conflict during World War II were never actually made before 1965, when Victory Day was officially established. “Before that, the war was considered a big mistake that cost millions of lives,” says the director.

But the most valuable part of the documentary are those old photographs, whose state of deterioration adds an exciting visual layer and reflects the elusive nature of memory. Ivanko often lets them tell their own story, using only the sound design and music to illustrate their content – sounds of traffic and crowded streets, revolutionary anthems, snippets of half-audible dialogue. These photos are a unique treasure, not least because of his grandpa's immense talent that is obvious in even the most mundane family pictures, and Ivanko gets a gallery in Kyiv to display them in an exhibition. Will the artist be able and willing to visit it?

Even though Ivanko was maybe just a few months late to record the memories he was after, he has still managed to make a documentary that deftly balances emotion with information, thanks to Igor Kosenko's sober editing.

Fragile Memory is a co-production between Ukraine's Burlaka Films and Slovakia's Peter Kerekes Film.

(L'article continue plus bas - Inf. publicitaire)

(Traduit de l'anglais)

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