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by Chris Krikellis
Souls of a River is a long stream of consciousness. The story of two men with two distinct backgrounds who have much more in common than it might initially seem. The story of two individuals, but also, at the same time, the story of the world in which we live, of a capitalist society that constantly makes us search far from home for the longed-for serenity. At the Diagonale’23.
What does the concept of homeland mean? What does it mean to feel like a foreigner in one’s home country? And, above all, how can a human being be considered “illegal” when crossing the border between one nation and another? Greek-born but German-adopted filmmaker Chris Krikellis asks these complex questions in his documentary Souls of a River, presented as part of the programme of the Diagonale’23.
Souls of a River, then, is a long and often painful journey between past and present. A journey that starts in Germany and leads to Greece, Turkey and, finally, Vienna. Chris Krikellis moved with his mother to Berlin when he was only eight years old. Greece, for him, is almost a foreign country. At the same time, the river Evros forms the border between Greece and Turkey. On the Greek side, the director meets Pavlos Pavlidis, a forensic doctor who every day recovers the bodies of those who have tried to cross the river to leave their homeland. The victims are often only recognised by their relatives thanks to some objects that belonged to them. Among them, however, there are also unfortunately those who are destined to remain “nameless”.
And so, on this long journey, Souls of a River confronts us with numerous questions that are often difficult to answer. The world we live in has become such solely by human beings. And, in the end, there seems to be no longer any consideration for the human being himself.
In order to stage all this, Chris Krikellis has opted for a predominantly contemplative directorial approach, in which brief dialogues between the director and the forensic doctor are interspersed with long silences, in which the images of migratory birds flying over the Evros River on their way to distant destinations or evocative totals showing us vast expanses of land simply speak for themselves. An approach, this one, which deliberately avoids any rhetoric or any virtuosity, but which, at the same time, in its simplicity, succeeds in fully conveying what the director wanted to communicate to us, leaving us free to draw our own conclusions.
Souls of a River, then, is a long stream of consciousness. The story of two men with two distinct backgrounds who have much more in common than may initially seem. The story of two individuals, but also, at the same time, the story of the world in which we live, of a capitalist society that constantly leads us to search far from home for the longed-for serenity. A story that ends (momentarily?) in the beautiful city of Vienna, the director’s third homeland. We do not know, in fact, whether his journey really ends here. What his Souls of a River has given us, in the meantime, are many precious food for thought together with beautiful images on screen. Images that immediately take on universal connotations and will remain imprinted in our minds for a long, long time.
Original title: Souls of a River
Directed by: Chris Krikellis
Country/year: Germany, UK, Austria / 2022
Running time: 83’
Screenplay: Chris Krikellis
Cinematography: Judith Benedikt
Produced by: Plaesion Film und Vision