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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Woman with the 5 Elephants

The Woman with the Five Elephants
* * * * *
Dir. Vadim Jendreyko

The Woman with the Five Elephants was the best film I saw at SilverDocs, and one of the best films I've seen all year. It's full of surprises: that a film about translating Dostoevsky could be so interesting, entertaining, and moving or that this film is Jendreyko's debut.

The film is about Svetlana Geier, who, well into her 80's, continues to work on translating Dostoevsky from Russian into German. Geier is one of the most remarkable characters you'll ever meet on film, and the film lovingly portrays her as she does her work. After a series of incidents she returns to the Ukraine for the first time with her granddaughter.

But this is a multivalent narrative, and ultimately it concerns the difficulty in translation: Svetlana herself as a Ukrainian refuge in Germany; in finding the means to express the human experience, in expressing ourselves and memories to others. And this film works to show what words can't. It's a moving, intelligent, sublime, and moving film and it is all treated with the restraint and care of a master. As I try to explain in words why this is such an amazing film I am even more aware of how difficult and how much artistry is required in finding the best word for a thought.

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