In 2007, the Lithuanian Prime Minister met film diarist Jonas Mekas for the opening of Vilnius's Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center. Mekas's Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania memorializes a less pompous exile's return, when he visited hometown Semenikiai after 25 years. Narrating in a measured, descending voice, Mekas begins in New York, 1950, among postwar dypukai ("displaced persons"), many, like him, refugees of Nazi work camps or worse. There's a sylvan upstate dance, picnics on Atlantic Avenue, and Williamsburg street life (the Church of the Annunciation still reads a Lithuanian Mass). Twenty years pass in an intertitle: "100 GLIMPSES OF LITHUANIA, AUGUST 1971"—a pied flutter of wildflowers, washstands, wells, dray carts, dappled groves, potato pancakes, a largely intact premodern rural life, and Mamma—each shot held only about as long as it takes to adjust the f-stop. A number of relations work for the communal farm—an ex-classmate operates the combine. Some subjects are self-conscious of how they'll seem to Americans, but life under the Communist SSR is only incidentally the subject of this sentimental journey: "You would like to know something about the social reality . . . but what do I know about it?" Mekas asks rhetorically. The film's closing contrast, monastery libraries paired with a fire in Vienna, champions archiving as civilized resistance.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!