I knew Audrius Mickevičius from several meetings in his wonderful Vilnius. As I remember it, he lived in the ”freetown” of the Lithuanian capital, Uzupis. He made in 2006 the film ”Man – Horse” that he pitched at Baltic Sea Forum with the most radical teaser I remember to have seen. And I knew very well this film project ”Exemplary Behaviour” from my time as a reader for Eurimages, where the detailed script written by Audrius Mickevičius and Nerijus Milerius was submitted and given funding because of its professional cinematic presentation, the fascinating approach to the subject and the multi-layered narration.
Yes, I write about Audrius Mickevičius in the past tense. He died in 2017 and
the scriptwriter Nerijus Milerius finished the film. Producer is experienced Rasa Miškinyte together with Bulgarian Martichka Bozhilova, Slovenian Igor Pedicek and Italian Edoardo Fracchia. A strong team around the Lithuanian director and his crew that included another Audrius – Kemezys, who died in February 2018 having been the cameraperson for all the important documentarians in the country : Audrius Stonys, Arunas Matelis, Giedre Beinoriute, Giedre Zickyte and Audrius Mickevičius. A big loss for Lithuanian cinema !
For « Exemplary Behaviour » several cameramen worked but the stamp of Kemezys is obvious in this film that works with so many angles and layers : the need for an aesthetical red thread, a visual virtuosity. It’s there.
It’s an essay. A reflection that starts from a personal point of view. The one of the director, whose brother was killed. You hear and see Audrius Mickevičius in the film. He was filmed and caught on the prison’s surveillance camera material. He has a beautiful text voice-off. Sometimes recalling the facts around his brother’s death and the release of the murderer after 6 years because of “good behaviour”!
Sometimes the text is like a poem, presented with the mild voice that was Audrius Mickevičius. You get to like – as the director did during his stay in the príson – the characters Rolandas and Rimantas and you find it unfair that Rolandas – as he himself puts it – has not spent a full day together with his wife Ingrida, who is also in a prison, after half a year of their marriage. Rimantas is the creative craftsman, who sculptures motorbikes and cars, he is an artist, he has been in jail for 20 years, where he has developed his skills. Audrius Mickevičius helps both of them in his journey towards forgiveness. And he raises the question if these prisons are helping anyone? As does the French philosopher in the film, who himself was a prisoner: a prison is a school for crime, he says.
Watching the film I was constantly amazed of how inventive and original many scenes were. Every little detail was cared for.
And here comes the motivation of the jury to choose to give the film the Golden Dove:
”The film EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOUR has been awarded the Golden Dove International Competition Long Documentary and Animated Film. In this work, Lithuanian filmmakers Audrius Mickevičius and Nerijus Milerius explore guilt and atonement as experienced by two convicted felons serving life sentences. When his brother is murdered, Audrius Mickevičius wonders whether there is a statute of limitations for guilt and whether anyone can really ever atone for murder. Before the film was completed, Audrius Mickevičius fell ill and died. Nerijus Milerius finished the project. In its statement, the jury said: “It’s at the darkest of times when we’re confronted with the worst that we discover our true selves and that the human spirit shines the brightest. With grace and dignity, the filmmakers take us on a unique and unexpected journey of redemption.” This film is a co-production of Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Italy. The Golden Dove was sponsored by German public broadcaster Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR). Since 2018, the award-winning film in the International Competition Long Documentary and Animated Film automatically qualifies for the OSCAR® in the category of documentary feature provided it fulfils the Academy’s formal criteria. EXEMPLARY BEHAVIOUR also received the International Critics Prize of FIPRESCI and the Prize of the Interreligious Jury, and thus with a total three awards the most honours of the evening…”
Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy, 2019, 85 mins.