The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
PERESTROIKA by Sarah Turner
118 mins, 2009
- Sight and Sound - "As physically immersive as anything youre likely to see at a 3D multiplex"
- Daily Telegraph - “Elegantly photographed, sound-designed to precise and goose-bumping effect, this is a rare and haunting work of memory-gleaning.”
- Film 4 - “Stark, haunting and hypnotic”
- Film Analytic blogspot
- The Guardian - 'Conceived with intelligence and arresting intensity.'
- FT.com - “...a puzzle picture worthy of Resnais or Antonioni.”
- BFI - “...makes the heart race.”
Perestroika is a ghost story that exploits technologies of memory in order to explore what we forget and how we remember. Part psycho geography, part dream, imagery is limited to views from the window of the Trans Siberian train shot in 1987-88, and then again in 2007-8. The re-enactment of the journey is a memory work, a re-enactment of the past in the present through the process of filming. But the return journey is haunted by the voices of two dead friends that dominate the soundscape of the ‘archive’ footage. The film culminates at the equally haunting expanse of lake Baikal.
Perestroika is both environmental allegory & an allegory of how our identities are constructed through others. When that relational foundation breaks down – we are driven to madness. The structure is a road movie or a train (of thought) movie, a psychodrama that becomes a psychological nightmare.
The film explores the relationship between time, photography and death. Equally, it explores ideas of what is ‘truth’, ‘fact’, ‘evidence’ and ‘record’, and in doing so, it plays with some of the ‘facts’ of my life. Therefore, it’s a documentary, which is autobiographical, a fiction which is also an essay, but mostly it’s a poem, which is an extended meditation on the nature of affect, or the ability of the image to represent experience.
Perestroika: Reconstructed isa re mix and re staging of Perestroika: here the re-enactment itself becomes performative, both the text and the con-text of the work. The film is composed of two sequences and imagery in both is limited to views from the window of the Trans Siberian train. Both sequences conclude at Lake Baikal and this is the main conceptual axis. Our first experience of the lake is terror/apocalypse, the second, an experience of beauty/tranquility, but now, critically, that experience is something that only exists in memory, it's the 'real' that we no longer have access to as our 're-experience' of the water is 'contaminated' by the affectual knowledge of our initial encounter. Whilst one reading between the two sequences suggests that memory is a construct, the truth of a moment or an event contingent on whichever narrative is framing it, another reading suggests an explicit environmental allegory. This is ultimately where the audience is left; the function and relationship between the two sequences is that an uncontaminated experience of landscape is literally and metaphorically now something that exists only in memory.