Few of Us

A young woman is dropped by helicopter onto a remote foothill of the Sayan mountains, a part of Siberia that is untouched by civilization and inhabited by a forgotten nomadic tribe. Wandering the barren landscape, she observes the primitive existence of a community that is slowly dying, until she is confronted with a sudden act of violence.


« À 16 ans, j’ai participé à une expédition en canoë dans l’est des monts Saïan, en Sibérie. C’était un voyage difficile. Sur le chemin, il y avait un village de nomades, les Tofolars, un peuple sibérien en train de disparaître. Leur extrême pauvreté, contrastant avec la splendeur des montagnes, m’a laissé une impression indélébile. J’ai envisagé différents moyens d’en rendre compte et j’ai réalisé que seul le cinéma pouvait transmettre cette impression. Je suis retourné là-bas deux fois : pour Tofolaria, un documentaire, en 1985, et pour Few of Us, une fiction, en 1996. »

Sharunas Bartas1


« Le cinéma de Sharunas Bartas a toujours existé, depuis que le monde est monde. Mais nous, où étions-nous passés? Un jeune contemporain, dans son pays méconnu, embrasse de son regard les visages, les paysages, les constructions qui l’entourent, avec une attention et une ferveur qui sauvent de notre temps ce qui peut l’être encore.

La beauté des films de Sharunas est entière dans la façon qu’ont ces films de se tenir droit debout sur le fil vacillant qui relie leur auteur, ses peines et ses lumières, aux peines et aux lumières du monde alentour. »

Leos Carax2


“Tarr’s cinema of damnation then isn’t necessarily meaningless, but its meaningfulness is malevolent. This contrasts with Bartas’ perspective which is closer to a degree zero aimlessness. In The Corridor (1994), for example, the central character (played by Bartas himself) walks through the various corridors of the title, looking at and listening to the behaviour of those in the various rooms he passes along and walks into. Bartas’ character is neither obviously agent nor seer; neither one who acts to achieve nor who sees to perceive; and thus whose place in the world is provocatively without purpose. He witnesses immense deformity, mental illness and poverty, but the director chooses neither to explain the character and his world’s inertial genealogy, nor does he offer him brief purpose within the present circumstances. It’s a degree zero extended to the camera. Bartas often uses static, or almost perfunctory, framing which plays much more on offscreen sound than the possibilities in onscreen space. In Tarr, taking off from fellow Hungarian Miklós Jancsó, though with a very different purpose, space is constantly opening up as he shows us the enormity of malevolence. In Bartas, impinging offscreen sound implies something else: it suggests the weakness of self, the insignificance of being. The misery of Bartas, not just in The Corridor, but also in Three Days (1991) and Few of Us (1996), isn’t the obvious inversion of the cinema of wonder often to be found in Tarr, but the apparent absence of the most basic will-power. When Tarr says ‘I don’t believe in God. This is my problem’ he implies that the spiritual issue is nevertheless the problem. In accepting that the ‘human is just a little part of the cosmos’ he hints that a bigger controlling principle is required. In Bartas the problem often appears to be less the malignantly cosmic than the microcosmically abject. This can take the urban form of Three Days and The Corridor, or that of the isolated rural community in Few of Us.”

Tony McKibbin3