Past Future Mountain
short film, 2021
The film takes us into a fairy tale world at the intersection of real and dreamlike, inner and outer, personal and global, past and future; the world of the Carpathian Gutsul culture. The mountains speak, urging the protagonist to go on a quest, and the mountain’s spirits intervene in human destiny.
The heroine of the film, Marichka, needs to face and overcome her fears to become the narrator of the fairy tale. Only then can she change the destiny of a young man, who fell from the top of the mountain, and that of a social group that has decided to close their eyes to avoid collective fear.
The story revolves around a young woman Marichka, who needs to go on a quest to find out more about a fairy tale that her grandmother started telling her when she was a child but did not finish. At the beginning of the film, she is a little frightened girl who can only find comfort and protection in her grandmother. Through her eyes, we are taken into her first childhood nightmare and subsequent trauma: the fear of death and of being left alone that, as a self-defence mechanism, she hides inside an old chest. Then, the grown-up Marichka finds the book that her grandmother read to her when she was a child, but the pages are blank. She has to listen to an inner voice that leads her up to the mountain, where she sees women with covered eyes and a man falling from the top of the mountain.
From this moment onwards, the personal quest of this young woman becomes interweaved with another layer of the story where the same motives repeat themselves on a macro scale. The women with covered eyes can be seen as a collective symbol of society. The conscious decision to close their eyes in order not to face collective traumas and problems leads to the loss of identity and the growth of social pres- sure. Theonewhois, a young man who falls from the top of the mountain, just as all the other characters of the story, can be seen both as a hero and as a part of Marichka’s soul; a reflection of her fear. He chose to live a different life but took the wrong step and cannot return unless healthy consciousness in his community is restored. Every time Marichka tries to save him she fails and, in one scene, she even becomes trapped in this web symbolized by a red ribbon.
Marichka leaves her home, but throughout the film something brings her back there — the old chest in which she stored her childhood fear, the one she needs to face. During her quest, Marichka meets two female archetypal figures and mountain spirits rooted in Carpathian folklore: Povitrulya – her magical guide – and Bogynka – a dark spirit who tries to stop her from accomplishing her mission. Played by one single actress, as two sides of one coin, Povitrulya is a force for acceptance, healing and rebirth, while Bogynka, not being able to overcome her trauma, is a force of destruction who can only be defeated by facing the truth. In search of revenge, she captures Theonewhois. Meanwhile, near the river, Marichka says goodbye to her grandmother and sees herself as a child. By finding comfort within herself, she is able to internalise the spiritual presence of her grandmother. Then, following the key, she goes back home to find out what is inside the old chest and makes a sacri- fice in order to get the powers of the wind. As she becomes free of her burden and light as the wind, she manages to trick Bogynka and changes a moment in past, becoming the narrator of the destiny of Theonewhois and his people.
Background (1): in and through fairy tales
Digging deep into my own memories and dreams, experiences and feelings, fears and hopes, this project derived from this inner journey. Then, it based itself on in-depth research, fairy tales being the main frame and as a source of knowledge. I explored its psychological aspects (such as the main motives, the hero’s path, the psyche, inner growth and dilemmas of the protagonist), symbolism, structure and linguistic patterns. The film plays with the structure and main motives of fairy tales, following and breaking them, changing perspectives between the narrator and the heroine of the story who are, in fact, the same person. Then, I explored archetypal feminine figures in fairy tales and chose two contrasting principles: The Sleeping Beauty and the Dark Side of the Goddess as the frame for my story. Following the previous step, I conducted research into Carpathian folklore and culture and found two characters from Carpathian fairy tales (Bogynka and Povitrulya) that correlated with the global feminine principles I had chosen and with the main conflict of the film. However, the role of Gutsul culture in the film is not limited to only this.
Background (2) Gutsul culture and role of nature in the film
The Carpathian Mountains and the Gutsul culture play a large role in the film on many levels. Conceptually, the film shows their beliefs, their closeness to nature, depicting a unique worldview and describing its current situation. For many centuries, the Carpathian Mountains remained quite isolated from the rest of the world. Local people kept their own views, influenced by the mythological perceptions and unity with nature that formed the basis of their culture which can be seen in their fairy tales. The world of Carpathians is inhabited by many spirits that live in the mountains, rivers, forests, who can either help or cause harm. With a strong pagan influence, the Gutsul culture pays much attention to worshipping nature and renewal, the circular passage of time.
The landscape can be seen as another dimension and as an equal protagonist in the film, reflecting the emotional state of the heroine, bearing symbolical meaning, bringing danger and safety, fear and hope. Both in the wild mountainous landscape and in the Carpathian culture, Marichka searches for spiritual growth by returning to the origins – here kind forces co-exist with evil ones, superstition with wisdom.
By taking the viewer into a fairy tale world the film aims to tackle current pressing issues. All characters of the film: Marichka, Theonewhois and the women on top of the mountain, Bogynka and Povitrulya, as well as the Gutsul culture itself, are on the brink of past and future, and in different ways go through a journey of facing and overcoming their fears. The key is to take the path to a new life; it can be frightening and hard, but it is better than living with your eyes closed. The plot revolves around possible scenarios of forgetting one’s roots, the conscious avoidance of facing traumas and fears, both on a micro and macro levels. Only by going on a personal quest, is Marichka able to make a change on a macro level, revealing herself not only as the heroine but also as the narrator of the fairy tale about a girl accomplishing her mission as a storyteller in society. What happens to the young woman is what happens in every person’s life, to anyone who decides to open their eyes as only through this can they guide other people to finding the new ways of looking at the world and acting within it.
The film does not intend to make a statement about local cultures in a globalised world, but rather show a local culture within it. The film contains many elements of Carpathian folklore and culture: decorations, costumes, Gutsul musical elements and the local dialect. The filming itself took place in the mountains, and the roles of the grandmother, the child and the women on top of the mountains were played by locals. These actors still hold onto their traditions, perform in their own surround- ings, wear traditional costumes and want to share their culture with the world. However, this culture can be seen as an endangered one, just like many other local cultures around the world, and we might be one of the last generations to witness it.
Written, directed, filmed & edited
by Marichka Lukianchuk
Hutsul band Bai
Marichka (grown up) — Valeria Berezovska
Theonewhois — Andrii Ptitsyn
Povitrulya, Bogynka — Angelina Andriushina
Grandmother — Vasylyna Zelenchuk
Marichka (child) — Anastasia Kozulym
Women on top of the mountain — Ganna Lutsiuk, Kateryna Yurniuk, Vasylyna Zelenchuk