Eternity and a Day ★★★★½

March Around The World 2016 #8 - Greece

Probably the Tarkovsky-ist non-Tarkovsky film I’ve seen. Which isn’t by any means an insult or to imply this is derivative of Tarkovsky. While this feels a little like an amalgamation of Nostalghia and The Sacrifice it also stands on it’s own as a brilliant rumination on life, death and regret. With his days numbered, heading into hospital the following day for an unknown ‘test’, Alexander attempts to get someone to take care of his dog, he meets an Albanian boy and ponders over his life, with dreams of his dead wife manifesting into walk-in flashbacks that Alexander participates in. Everything moves delicately, as if Alexander himself is guiding the film and is desperate to appreciate every object in each frame and take each memory with him into death.

Time is a major theme explored. One of the opening lines is ”time is a child playing jacks on the beach.” Time always wins, time outlasts us all, caring not if we accept our fate or not. Time is simply a child, unaware or simply unflustered by our petty refusal to accept death as an inevitability. Alexander, like us all, hasn’t truly appreciated all the time he had. He’s been looking back into the past. Focusing on the death of his wife that still burns him, his wife he still senses calls him from afar. He’s been working on finishing a 19th century poem, as if that itself will transport him back in time, away from his impending death and to a safer place. Ironically he’s a poet that has ”ran out of words”, failing to finish the poem and failing to truly be able to express his emotions at the end of his life.

Which kind of plays into the film nicely. Because this isn’t a film about dialogue - although there are some wonderful lines - it’s a film about the visual experience of a burgeoning unlikely friendship, finding light in the darkest of times, and standing tall above death and time, embracing the fact that we’re just specks of dust on this earth and should explore, enjoy and cherish every moment we’ve got here. Earlier in the film Alexander asks ”Why must we rot, helpless, between pain and desire?” but as the runtime wears on, and he encounters true spirit and an innocence he thought he’d lost, those words lose their meaning. That rotting feeling between pain and desire becomes something to cherish, because at least we’re feeling something, not just a void of nothingness.

Alexander is able to make peace with people, to feel worthy in his last days, and be able to look back on his memories with joy instead of regret. His wife Anna still calls to him, but it’s not a call from the past looking for forgiveness or sorrow, but instead asking him to come to her, to join her so they can continue their lives spiritually. It’s an absolutely beautiful film, it gets in your veins and for two hours your blood pumps a little differently. A film that clutches the core of human fears, worries and pain in it’s palm but helps alleviate those pains though beauty. In the final act, there’s a great scene on a bus where an unknown figure tells Alexander and the boy this poem, and I can’t think of a better way to end this review than with something that encapsulates the brilliance and beauty of this film better than I could:

"The dawn's last dewy morning star
Heralded the coming of a radiant sun
No mist or shadow dared to mar
The perfection of that cloudless sky
And from there a gentle breeze sweetly blew
Caressing the faces down below
As if to murmur into the heart's recesses
"Life is sweet" and,
"Life is sweet""

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