Critics’ Picks

Deimantas Narkevicius, The Dud Effect, 2008, still from a color film in 16 mm, 15 minutes 40 seconds.


Deimantas Narkevicius

Galerie Barbara Weiss
Kohlfurter Strasse 41/43
October 30–December 20

Deimantas Narkevicius’s film The Dud Effect, 2008, which is set in a deserted former Soviet missile base in his native country, Lithuania, is slowly paced and hypnotic. But what he depicts is nonetheless devastating. Narkevičius introduces a chilling, crisply filmed enactment of the procedures leading to a missile launch—as demonstrated by Evgeny Terentiev, a former Soviet officer who served in Lithuania—coupled with archival cold-war photos. The work concludes with lingering views—painfully tight compositions—of the abandoned base and its vast, dilapidated underground catacombs. Most of the images are as still and absorbing as photographs, and Narkevicius’s steady shots recall Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979). The sounds of crickets chirping during sequences that document the decrepit site add a muted element of hope for nature’s regeneration despite the collapsed martial buildings that shadow today’s Lithuanian landscape and are a brutal reminder of the military’s dominant role not long ago. Similarly, while Terentiev’s voice may be completely cold as he gives orders and commands from behind his spare, tidy desk, his deeply lined but sensitively expressive face appears as ravished by the stresses of war as the blighted landscape. Occasionally and unmistakably, Terentiev’s eyes register a flicker of remorse and pathos. Viewers may not know whether this is exemplary acting or the genuine response of a man intimately engaging with the traumatic memory of war. But one can hope for the latter while being moved by either possibility.