(Lithuania 2020; Dir: Laurynas Bareisa)

Dummy

Crime & Solidarity

review by Līga Požarska

Dummy

original title: Atkūrimas

length: 13

year of production: 2020

country of production: Lithuania

director: Laurynas Bareisa

production: Klementina Remeikaite

director of photography: Laurynas Bareisa

editing: Laurynas Bareisa

sound: Julius Grigelionis

cast: Indrė Patkauskaitė, Paulius Markevičius, Kęstutis Jakštas, Dmitrij Denisiuk

festivals: Berlinale Shorts 2020

© images: Dummy (Laurynas Bareisa)

Lithuanian director Laurynas Bareisa’s fourth short film ‘Dummy’, which had its world premiere in the Berlinale Shorts program, is a gripping story about gender roles and the perception of crime.

‘Dummy’ revolves around a crime scene being reenacted with a human-size doll – dummy. Six investigators, consisting of solely one woman called Miglé, are interrogating a criminal in the forest. The perpetrator Thomas traces back a story of the day he raped a woman in the very same woods.

This film’s powerful message is delivered within a seemingly simple structure: the story unfolds in one setting and at the given moment. The director, also the director of photography, observes this investigation with a documentarian grasp. We are at the moment, witnessing the story evolving through Bareisa’s cleverly written script. Dialogues are not too wordy, yet reveal a lot about the group’s dynamic. Yet, the abundance of characters is puzzling – as half of the men are saying practically nothing or throwing in one-liners, casting doubt on the justification of their functions. Perhaps their sole purpose is to form a mass?

The criminal act itself — combined with the males’ apparent underestimation of the gravity of this atrocity — makes ‘Dummy’ a brutal and straightforward depiction of the chilly treatment of women: a power game masqueraded as an investigation of rape.

At the beginning, we see a car getting stuck in the forest. When Miglé proposes to get out of the vehicle to make it lighter, her colleague Vidas replies: “Stay, you weigh almost nothing.” Sadly, also her views on the matter won’t carry much weight in this testosterone-driven investigation. Men seem to have a different level of awareness when it comes to detailed questioning, while Miglé is the one taking this testimony at its utmost seriousness and keeping the professional level high.

Gender roles are rather clear-cut: men are mostly acting as machos, offering a hand or help in overcoming forest’s obstacles. Miglé refuses. Possibly, the thought that she can easily manage by herself has never slipped the minds of these fine gentlemen. They are under the impression that these small gestures are enough to constitute a cavalier’s behaviour.

The alpha-male act doesn’t stop there. Miglé has an undervalued authority. When the perpetrator asks if he could take a dip in the lake, Miglé sharply declines. Meanwhile, Vidas gives the green light and, naturally, the guy takes his word for it. She cannot take a strong stand without being belittled.

In certain occasions, it is said to enter the woods silently. This quietness is a sign of respect towards the woodlands. Miglé is also silenced, but in a different way — almost like the mute dummy. Moreover, the static dummy is a grotesque reminder of an immobile victim that used to be in its place. Hardly existent identification of the sufferer (also in terms of sex — though, we are stating this based on English subtitles only) makes the connection between the victim and the doll even stronger — they are stagnant and indeterminate objects.

Thomas’s vocabulary allegedly lacks the term "guilt". The choice of words and intonation convey a perverse cold-blooded pride when sharing precise details how he went about his crime. One could imagine that reliving these gruesome details could awaken certain feelings, but no remorse is shown. As if he is giving a routine answer about last Friday night.

Bareisa’s film comes in a time when women are speaking out, yet are still being silenced. In the light of ‘Dummy’ and the current affairs, one particular case comes to mind: Polanski. After watching all of Roman Polanski’s films, Roger Gunson, the prosecutor of his 1977 trial, concluded that his films deal with perversion and violence happening in a close connection to water, which, on the other hand, symbolizes clarity and innocence. ‘Dummy’ equally focuses on an immoral tale and ends with a swim in the nearby lake.

In addition, the film also deals with women trying to be heard. Like Adèle Haenel and other protesters, who expressed their fury about Polanski being honoured as the best director at the recent Césars.

Tragically, a gruesome omerta exists between powerful people. They get justice and moral system discounts. The most obvious examples – numerous influential people weren’t speaking out about Weinstein, nor Polanski. Bareisa has shed a light on this moral corruption. In his morbid tale crime doesn’t meet a condemnation. Instead, the criminal receives something more resembling the officers’ solidarity and tolerance.