LYUBOV – Love in Russian

LYUBOV – Love in Russian
dir.Staffan Julén/Sweden/2017/89 min

What is love? What forms does it take in times of repression, persecution, catastrophe and war? And how can it survive when an entire culture seems poised to discount it?

Svetlana Aleksijevitj, the 2015 Nobel-Prize winning Belarusian author whose oral histories have explored the psyche of the Russian people, is now working on a book about “the innermost nature of love”. Director StaffanJulén has been working with her to create a documentary that follows this journey, a close collaboration that is unique, giving an insight into a writing process that she has always protected and never let any outsider be part of.

“Happiness, how are we supposed to talk about happiness? We have only occupied ourselves with surviving,” responds a 90-year-old survivor of the Gulag to the question “Why do you never speak of happiness here?”

Aleksijevitj herself feels that the Russian language has been poisoned and invaded by hatred and bellicose rhetoric. Yet seeking a new language, she asks people to explore their most intimate thoughts. And although the stories focus on love, they are ultimately the stories of Russia: its mind, its spirit and its heart.

The film is an intricate tapestry of interwoven stories that express the essence of love, the byzantine paths it can take, and its power to survive, even in the most desperate circumstances. But it also sings of madness, pain, longing and emptiness in a harsh reality that values people by status and money.

As the chasm widens between East and West, the film also enters a cultural space that a Western audience would otherwise not be able to access. Some characters recur while others, as in Aleksijevitj’s books, shuffle the cards to provide contrast or illuminate connections. Poetic imagery lets the viewer rest in the stories which, as they cumulate and resonate, reveal the soul of a people.


  • projection time:
    89 min
  • country/year:
  • director:
  • pictures:
    Majaq Julen
  • production:
  • selected festivals and awards:
    2017 – IDFA Amsterdam

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