Actress-helmer Janina Lapinskaite’s tale of a glazed and confused young mother, “A Land of Glass,” glitters with pellucid imagery of austere rooms, grassy fields and snowscapes jeweled with spots of gel-filtered light. However, stubbornly inscrutable and slow-moving plot, a sort of diary of a mad Lithuanian housewife, may leave some viewers begging for a squeegee to clear up story’s murky corners. Jurga Kalvaityte’s turn as the sporadically sympathetic, troubled protag just about holds pic together. “A Land of Glass” won’t shatter B.O. records at home, but could provide sharp-edged program fodder for fests seeking Baltic views.
Isolated in forest-set dacha with her 7-year-old daughter (Urte Sejunaite) and sickly infant son, a glum-mouthed woman (Kalvaityte), unnamed like all the pic’s characters, seems to be suffering either from an acute case of post-partum depression or maybe bereavement for another lost child.
Her cold-fish husband (Povilas Budrys) seems preoccupied by his unspecified job in the city, but makes a mild effort to encourage his wife to see a doctor. The doctor bafflingly coerces her to have sex with him, although it’s not clear if they do the deed in the end. Hubby also drives the car in the middle of the night to help mom try to hush the mewling babe.
Much of the first half features mother and daughter wandering around the house or walking through the surrounding fields and woods, affording opportunity for striking crane-assisted camerawork. As the mother’s grip on reality loosens, her behavior becomes more bizarre: She starts counting compulsively and half-heartedly attempts suicide.
Her ambivalent feelings toward motherhood lead to a disturbing climax involving a litter of puppies. This last plot point may limit pic’s distribution prospects, although presumably no animals were actually harmed during filming.
“A Land of Glass” displays strong Slavic tendency toward the oblique and symbolic, but pic stumbles badly because of the lack of story development. Although helmer Lapinskaite suffuses pic with creepy atmosphere, at times suggesting a supernatural element at play, there’s not quite enough visual poetry to distract from the gaping plot holes and unanswered questions.
Kalvaityte — for most of film’s running time gamely willing to look more bedraggled and washed out than Courtney Love after a week-long bender — works hard to suggest her character’s snowballing dementia, but admirably refrains from obvious histrionics. Young Sejunaite impresses, especially in the final act with an underplayed creepy child schtick reminiscent of the spooky tots in “The Innocents” (1961) and the more recent “The Others.”
Like much recent Lithuanian cinema, production values here are tip top, with Algimantas Mikutenas’s inventive, almost theatrical-style lensing proving the standout element. Art direction by Augis Kepezinskas, which uses neutral colors and lots of near empty rooms, further enhances bereft atmosphere.