Giedre Zickyte: Master and Tatyana

So, there it is, the film about the Lithuanian photographer Vitas Luckus (1943-1987), his life, his art and first of all his love story with muse and wife, Tatyana. It is made by Giedre Zickyte, who has been working on it for years. I heard about it five (maybe more) years ago, when she was pitching the film at the Baltic Sea Forum, and since then I have had the pleasure to watch sequences and rough versions. Yes, pleasure, because Giedre Zickyte has kept the passion for her film the whole way through, and pleasure because you can see Quality, high Quality in the final film. For me it’s brilliant, nothing less.

As I don’t come ”innocent” to the film, I can not give it marks, others will do so, and lucky Krakow Film Festival that they will have the international premiere at the end of this month.

”A man of exceptional gentleness” says one of the handful of friends, who met and worked with Luckus. The friends are all clearly emotional, when they talk about him and the time, where they were together in a bohemian life, a small group of independent artists, who tried to be independent to make art in the USSR, where censorship was normal and Luckus artistic photos were rarely exhibited.

His photos, shown generously in the film, are wide-ranging, black & white, social, (almost) always with people as the motive, many from travels are presented in many different ways narratively. Through a magnifying glass on contact sheets in a fine visual flow or photo by photo on the screen fading in and out with time to watch and discover. Or through camera movements from photo to photo…. Has to be said that Luckus, together with Tatyana, made good money on making advertisement campaigns.

But – as the title indicates – the film is first of all a love story told primarily through the photos of Vitas and Tatyana, a love story that is so obvious, when you watch how he composes the portraits of Tatyana, how the camera is constantly caressing the beautiful woman, with or without clothes. Her face is so full of expressions and you can see that he has caught her in true observational documentarian style as well as in arranged situations.

Their relationship was not always easy. Luckus was a classical bohemian artist, who had (as one of the friends says) alcohol as his demon, who was away from home in periods – another friend said that they were on the edge of divorce several times, but found out that ”we could not live without each other”, as Tatyana says from her home in the USA, where she has been living since she felt she had to leave Vilnius after Luckus took his own life after having taken another person’s life.

These tragic events frame the story of the life of Vitas Luckus but – in his spirit – with gentleness, reflecting what you can see in his world class photos – sensuality. Luckus jumped out of the window – ”our whole life went out of that window”, says Tatyana. One of the friends pick a photo taken by Luckus: A photo of their sitting room with footprints on the ceiling leading to an open window… Magic!

Tatyana, who has kept his archive with her all the time, returns to Vilnius in an epilogue in the film to open an exhibition with his works, including some large series of close-ups of faces. Magnificent! She carries the love story in a non-sentimental way, saying little in the film but enough, charisma!

For me this must give an international carreer for a film that has Audrius Kezemys to give amazing cinematography that corresponds to the photographer, Danielius Kokanauskis and the director herselt to give the intensity and the flow of narration and Dagnė Vildiūnaitė and her company Just a Moment to produce.

Yes, I love that film.

Lithuania, 84 mins., 2014

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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