Isaac begins with a six minute long scene in which a group of Jewish people are massacred on a Lithuanian street in 1941. The camera almost calmly follows a man around. A sense of fear and desperation fill the air. This effectively sets the tone that permeates the entire film. It also sets up a chain of events that would be felt decades later.
Visually, the movie is absolutely stunning. The opening scene is just the first of many times Isaac will draw the audience in with long tracking shots. The movie also jumps from a cold black white then jumps into vibrant color before switching right back. It sounds gimmicky, but first time director Jurgis Matulevicius shoots the movie with the finesse of an expert.
The story also moves between eras. This can make the film a little difficult to follow at times, but there are always the main themes. Regret, the lasting effects of war, and longing are all a part of Isaac. The film is hard to classify. Along with dealing with the aftermath of war, there is something of a love triangle. Gediminas is a film director who plans to shoot a film about the massacre in the opening moments of Isaac. His friend Andrius thinks it is a bad idea. Meanwhile, Andrius’s bored wife Elena thinks it is a great idea.
At the same time, the KGB are also interested in what Gediminias is doing. There is a lot to keep up with in Isaac – too much at times – but the film is an intriguing one. There is a sense of paranoia that hangs over the entire story and nothing is ever as it appears. Where Isaac truly shines is in its emotion. Some of it is obvious like the guilt that follows Andrius around. Other times, it is seen in the vacant glance of Elena. Then there is just the general hypocrisy of the Cold War era Soviet Union. The film always succeeds in making its audience feel something.
Isaac is currently showing at the Slamdance Film Festival.
The Slamdance Film Festival takes place from February 12-25. Virtual tickets can be purchased at the official site.
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