As a devoted subscriber of MUBI, I’m always thrilled to discover new directors and to explore their proverbial waters. One of my recent journeys was the psychological thriller Vanishing Waves from director Kristina Buožytė, and after two full hours of stunning visuals and a heart-breaking performance by Jurga Jutaite, a brief decompression period was necessary to recover from the heavy experience.
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Lukas (Marius Jampolskis), a neuroinformatics scientist, sports a bushy hairstyle much like Matthew Rhys’ alter ago, Clark, on FX’s The Americans. Although the young man has a beautiful girlfriend named Lina (Martina Jablonskyte), his true love appears to be his work, and he takes on a entirely new persona, literally, by shaving his head, and figuratively by neurologically entering the mind of a female coma patient. A strange first encounter (and a first kiss) intrigues Lukas, but he remains silent, understandably, once wild, cerebral sex commences with the subject.
Vanishing Waves boasts a touch of Andrei Tarkovsky, but I found many similarities to the psychosexual thrillers of French director Alain Robbe-Grillet, most notably Eden and After (1970) and Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974). Both Robbe-Grillet and Buožytė establish atmospheric settings complimented by gorgeous female leads who frolic around in the nude as a curious male falls victim to their sensuality. Despite the blurring of lines, Buožytė consistently touches on reality, as Lukas confides his secrets to a trusted friend and attempts to maintain a loving relationship with Lina (despite falling in love with a distant ideal). The mind excursions take on a new dimension once the dream subject realizes her true identity, thus sharpening Jake’s sword of subconscious as he defends his unreachable princess against the brutal truth.
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Jutaite illuminates every scene with her beauty much like Anicée Alvina in Successive Slidings of Pleasure and Catherine Jourdan in Eden and After. While Jeanette Catsoulis of The New York Times wrote that “an unflattering portrait of the male psyche is front and center,” I’m inclined to believe that Lukas is searching for something beyond sex and domination. He seems to be enraptured with a Goddess figure, something unattainable but still within reach (albeit in another dimension). It’s that paradox that haunts Lukas, and furthermore, nobody will ever be able to comprehend his pursuit except him.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.