Review: ‘Vortex’

Gytis Luksas' fine adaptation of Viktoras Radzevicius' 2003 novel merits attention from programmers and niche buyers.

It’s a compliment to say the Lithuanian period drama “Vortex” might be mistaken for a Soviet-bloc feature of 40-50 years ago — its austere black-and-white beauty, deliberate pace and tender solemnity are of a piece with works from a great period in world cinema. The difference is that during the 1960s, such exercises stood some chance of offshore theatrical exposure, while now they’re strictly fest fare — and not even fashionably so. Nevertheless, Gytis Luksas’ fine adaptation of Viktoras Radzevicius’ 2003 novel merits attention from programmers and niche buyers.

His father killed returning from WWI, and a teenage best friend drowned in another accident, Juzik (Giedrius Kiela) nonetheless reaches adulthood with his country innocence and good faith intact. After military service, he works in a corrupt quarry where he becomes involved with two self-destructive women: boozing, promiscuous Klara (Jevgenija Varencia); and insecure, much-victimized Maska (Oksana Borbat). Periodically, Juzik returns home to visit his lonely, aging mother (Jurate Onaityte). Structured in chapters, the tale eventually plods a bit, but sports a gentle gravity that’s winning, not least in Viktoras Radzevicius’ luminous lensing. The pic’s thesping won three Silver Crane awards in May.

Vortex

Lithuania

Production

A Lietuvos Kinostudija, Studija 2 production. (International sales: Studija 2, Vilnius.) Produced by Kestutis Petrulis, Aruna Stoskus. Directed by Gytis Luksas. Screenplay, Luksas, based on the novel by Romualdas Granauskas.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Viktoras Radzevicius; editor, Ricardas Matacius; music, Vivaldi; production designer, Augis Kepezinskas. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema), Aug. 28, 2009. Original title: Duburys. Running time: 142 MIN.

With

Giedrius Kiela, Oksana Borbat, Jevgenija Varencia, Jurate Onaityte, Valentinas Masalskis, Toma Vaskeviciute, Egle Mikulionyte, Darius Meskauskas, Sarunas Datenis, Diana Valiusaitene, Vladimiras Jefremovas.
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