TIFF14 REVIEW: Liompa [2014]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 16 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Canada)
Director(s): Elizabeth Lazebnik
Writer(s): Elizabeth Lazebnik / Yuri Olesha (short story)

“We’ve gained the control and lost the music”

Adapted from the 1928 short story by Yuri Olesha, Elizabeth Lazebnik‘s Liompa gives us a glimpse at the differing stages of life. We may only hear from the dying Ponomarev (Aleksey Serebryakov) as he refuses to cope with the fact he’s lost all control over the world around him, but there are also two more characters one could see as stepping stones of evolution still caught in the hold of reality’s grip. Alexander (Stepan Serebryakov)—for example—has just come of the age where doing and creating are all he can see. He wants to give names to everything around him so as to know them while Ponomarev hopes to forget all labels in his mind and wish to once more experience them unencumbered by man-made convention: fresh, wondrous, and new like a newborn.

The short is therefore a philosophically cinematic interpretation of René Magritte‘s Ceci n’est pas une pipe. It begs us to ask what life is: the world itself available to us if we’re willing to meet it, the limitless possibilities of transformation into whatever our imaginations conjure, or the encyclopedic notion of understanding above seeing. For each of these characters—the “newborn” being a young wide-eyed boy roaming the house with unfiltered glee at things possessing nuanced meaning that his innocent mind is unaware of comprehending (Sasha Romanov)—one’s idea of life is another’s undoing. The boy seeks fun, Alexander strives for meaning, and Ponomarev simply wants experience in a circle of life folding back onto itself with desire always peering forward until progress loops back to the beginning.

Shot with a stillness that allows every tiny noise from the scrap of wood, the chopping of an onion, or the cough of a sick man to roar with energy, Liompa becomes a catalog itself hovering on seemingly innocuous items that mean the world to some. A piece of wood is simultaneously a noise-making toy, a building block of technology, and a concept that doesn’t exist unless in our hands. Everything Lazebnik lingers on has a visceral, physical, and emotional charge we alternatingly embrace and abhor as we grow nearer to our oblivion. In the end all we know and see survives inside us and us alone. Their intrinsic meanings gradually disappear as our ability to understand dissipates until we’re left only with memory. Memories of life we no longer have, soon evaporated to make room for future generations to create their own.

courtesy of TIFF

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