ELÉGIE POUR UN PHARE

ELEGY FOR A LIGHTHOUSE

By Dominique DE RIVAZ

LOUISE PRODUCTIONS - as PROD

Documentary - Completed 2013

Her father just died. Newspapers say a lighthouse is to be extinguished forever in the Great Russian North. Can it be the place of her mourning?

    • Year of production
    • 2013
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • SWITZERLAND
    • Languages
    • FRENCH
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 56 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Dominique DE RIVAZ
    • Synopsis
    • Everything draws her to a lighthouse that is condemned to be extinguished soon. She just lost her father. She feels that to go towards the light is surely the right way. But maybe, once more, she will be late. Over there, there is someone, the keeper of a condemned lighthouse. Maybe they will know how to find consolation for their respective losses.
      She thinks that over there her mourning will take another form. She feels that if life could resurface, it would be from deep within herself. She is on the lookout for the return of the keeper who does not appear. She films a desolate place where remnants of five-year plans, shipwrecks of trawlers and human bones are littering the sands. Three hundred versts beyond the Arctic Circle, between the White Sea and the Barent Sea, in the immense Russian North, her sorrow turns into interest for this strange place, at once fascinating and repulsive, lost in the rusty scraps, a place that was, until 1970, a vital fishing port of Russia. Now it's being devoured by advancing sand dunes. An ecological catastrophe or a curse? Shoyna is no more.
      Gradually, her grief fades. She sees the handful of residents struggling against the sands. Alive. And each day the lighthouse stands in silent insolence. And the cranberries of the tundra, lively, colourful, piercing the sand. And the children making light of the sands and the water drawn from them.
      For the next few days, when neither the sun nor the moon appear on the horizon, in this babi lieta (Indian summer), she captures, in long, almost photography-like sequence shots, the preparations for the northern winter, the annual passage of the diesel tanker, the fire in the archaic bread oven…She attends the singing class at the school; she adores the children in the canteen, the teens in the disco, among the sands and the vodka… Every day she watches the geese as they fly south. A dead seagull still flaps its wings, exposed on the top of a stake. Death in Shoyna is inextricably attached to life. Her life.
      The trawler wrecks attract her, she returns at ebb tide. And then she suddenly remembers: this is the image of the trawler lying on its side, the one that her father took of her, on a Finistère beach, when she was five years old. And this other photo of her, a pensive little girl on the steps of a spiral staircase, the stairs of a Breton lighthouse. In search of a place to mourn, she realizes that she has come here to meet the primordial image, the one that has made her a filmmaker. Her quest suddenly makes sense. Her improvised film is beyond mourning - it's a tribute to transmission.
      On the eve of her return, she will say her goodbyes to the abandoned lighthouse. She does not know how to part from this useless pachyderm. She puts her ear against the rusted iron door as if listening to a monster, to make sure that it is really dead. And then she hears a lament. She hears the lighthouse weep.
      So she takes the lighthouse in her arms. And together, they dance.
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