If W G Sebald had directed a road movie, it might have looked like Silent Souls. Ostensibly the story of a trip, it's also a poetic meditation on love, death and the disappearance of a culture.
Middle-aged millworker Aist (Igor Sergeev) is asked by his friend Miron (Yuriy Tsurilo) to accompany him back to their native town of Neya, where the latter's young wife has just died.
Both men are remnants of the Merja, an ancient tribe of northern Russia whose language and customs have all but vanished; still, Miron wants to dispose of his wife's ashes in the sea, in accordance with Merjan tradition.
Director Aleksei Fedorchenko films the two men from the back seat of Miron's car, like a silent passenger, while Aist's pair of pet buntings twitter away in a cage that could hardly be more symbolic. Private memories preoccupy the men, and hint at the possibility that Aist was in love with his friend's wife.
Nothing much happens, except in the melancholy realm of feeling and implication: we have witnessed not just a funeral but a way of life fading out.
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