Review: Songs for a Fox


– Kristijonas VildžiÅ«nas’ fifth feature film is a melancholy journey into the world of lucid dreaming

Lukas Malinauskas in Songs for a fox

The mysterious art of lucid dreaming occupies a central place in Kristijonas VildžiÅ«nas‘fifth feature film, titled Songs for a fox [+see also:
film profile
and the only Baltic production participating in this year’s main competition Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

The story centers on a rock singer in his twenties called Dainius (played by Lukas Malinauskas), which locks itself in the solitude of an isolated dome-shaped country house, surrounded by nature. The installation goes at a rather slow pace, but we basically find out that his girlfriend, Justine (Agnese CÄ«rule), recently passed away, and he is then joined in the grieving process by two of his friends who were unable to attend the funeral because they were somewhere in America. Dainius discovers that his beloved practiced the art of lucid dreaming and regularly updated a journal with the details of his dream journeys.

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This is the premise that leads Dainius to learn to engage in lucid dreaming himself, in the hope of seeing Justine again, even though this vision is only the product of his subconscious. A chance encounter with a boy, Gailis, exploited by two clairvoyants, is a crucial turning point in the tale, as he will begin to act as Dainius’ assistant to stimulate his lucid dreaming experiences. The reference to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is crystal clear and explicitly mentioned, and it is fascinating enough to guide viewers through a visionary and highly emotional journey. Quite predictably, the most engaging parts of this film are those set in the dreamlike world of Dainius, and most of them are filmed during the so-called magical “blue hour”. Some images and creatures of this dimension will likely make sense or stimulate the collective imagination of the public. Some others can be much more obscure or even appear to be just random. This is a smart decision, as dreams often cause fears and desires to materialize, but sometimes the form they take feels totally meaningless or confusing to us. In any case, the technical quality of the dreamlike sequences is remarkable, and well-deserved praise must go to the skillful cinematography of Jurgis Kmins and the excellent production design by Jurgis Krasons, who commissioned his team to build all the “dream sets” around the marshes and forests surrounding Dainius’ country house.

It is also pretty obvious that the director (also screenwriter of this film) is very familiar with the art of lucid dreaming, and he proves it by staging several false awakenings, reality checks, interference between reality and dream during REM sleep, and Dainius’ attempts to manipulate dreams. And icing on the cake, many of Dainius’ dreamlike wanderings are enriched by the presence of an engaging score (courtesy of Zigmantas Butautis and the director himself, who is a retired rock star), helping to create a melancholy – and at times disturbing – mood. On a final, positive note, Malinauskas imbues his role with the right amount of fragility and irrationality, adding credibility and depth to his character.

Songs for a fox was produced by Lithuania Studio Uljana Kim, and co-produced by the Latvian company Locomotive Studio and Estonia Eesti Joonisfilm. british company Alief is in charge of its international sales.

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