With a visually stunning, quiet intensity, director Alexander Sokurov awakens the senses to the world of nature, human relationships, and death in this film about the poignant last hours of a dying mother and the son who cares for her. The film begins before the first scene and ends after the last, with the sound of wind in the trees and the songs of birds. Special filters and lenses were used to work with reflecting planes, to manipulate light and shadow as an artist would, and to give added dimension to the full experience of living each moment before death. The mother and son are not named, they live in an isolated, run-down home in the countryside, a vast green landscape of trees and fields. One night they dream the same dream, and the son carries the mother outside, where he reads old postcards to her, and they reminisce about their past...strengthening themselves against the impact of a separation they know is coming soon. Paths -- through the forest, along a railroad track, and that of a sailing boat heading across an infinite body of water -- symbolize the journey the mother has taken and another she will take soon. This combination of the subtle use of images to evoke a greater reality and the astounding use of sound to evoke something unseen but sensed, provides a measure for the depth of the communication and caring between the mother and son. Although Sokurov's evocative, intimate drama begins slowly and so may put off some viewers, it is worth the wait to see how the story is told.
by Eleanor Mannikka synopsis