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Slamdance 2021: “Isaac”

© jurgis

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is good and bad karma. There is a past that has its way to catch up to all of us. What we have done will determine who pays the price for it. It does not matter if that price is positive or not. Some people have to wait until they reach a very old age to learn their lesson while some get it right away. As a concept, it is filled with mixed assumptions and ideas. However, Jurgis Matulevicius provides the cinematic experience to how it should normally be told.

Set in 1941, to serve as a narrative, an unnamed man kills his neighbor, Isaac during the Lietukis garage massacre. After over two decades pass, a Lithuanian filmmaker, Gediminas Gutauskas, who managed to find refuge in the USA, returns to his homeland with a very detailed screenplay to describe the very event that killed many Jews in a garage. It draws KGB’s attention and reopens a cold case hoping to find those who were responsible for the massacre. In the meantime, the return of Gediminas Gutauskas triggers guilt in another man, Andrius, whose self-destructive trip down the painful memory lane compromises his marriage with Elena.

Shot in black and white, the film opens with the horrendous tortures of Jews, as the camera slowly follows a man who is forced to kill the titular character, Isaac. We don’t know who the man is, but we do know it was a matter of his life or the life of someone else, he, without hesitation, ends. Fast-forward to decades later, a proud filmmaker hopes to make a name for himself by directing a film based that provides a stunning depiction of the horrific events, not realizing he will soon be in the center of KGB’s investigation.

Based on Antana Skema’s short story and directed by Jurgis Matulevicius, “Isaac” explores how painful the past can be, and how much it would like to be avenged. Filled with stellar performances from Aleksas Kazanavicius (as the guilty Andrius), Dainius Gavenonis (as an ambitious filmmaker) and Severija Janusauskaite as the loving and supportive wife to Andrius, the film is a painful reminder to all of us – no one can escape the past. The aftermath of Isaac’s murder is heartbreaking in a way, as once it aims at its target, it knows it won’t miss it. Also, it provides a clear reality of how KGB conducted its interrogations when they have no other resources left to extract information. All this and many more you will be getting a chance to observe in the intelligent and thought-provoking “Isaac” that will surely make you think a lot about it after it’s over.

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