Gaile is a speech therapist and an eccentric character, who can only develop emotions when she sees herself on screen.
Throughout the confusing 20 minutes it took audiences to discover this about the lead character of the Lithuanian feature “Kolekcionier (The Collectress), the slow-paced film seemed to wonder without direction. Gradually, obscurity turns into anticipation. The pace doesn’t speed up though; it just becomes eventful.
The eccentricity of Gaile’s new-found hobby builds up to an unconventional climax, as she tries to experience the range of emotions known to human kind.
With a stern face and lifeless eyes, Gaile seems unable to feel anything in real life. She plays a prank on strangers with the same poker face and unexpressive eyes that mark her reaction to death. It’s only when she sees herself on camera that she feels the emotions she would have normally felt in these situations.
As she watches herself on the screen – she manages to get a scruffy film editor to follow her with a camera to then edit the footage for her to watch – her face and eyes spring back to life. She laughs, cries and feels the adrenalin rush of a speeding car. Even regret finds its way to her seemingly ruthless eyes – but only in front of a screen.
The anticipation of how far she would take her new-found obsession provides the film with much needed momentum. Other unconventional elements employed by the filmmakers to accentuate Gaile’s confusion and the aura of mystery engulfing her life after her father’s death were distracting at times.
The dark hues and minimum lighting successfully painted the grim picture that is her life. However, the camera angles that attempted to give the feeling that someone was lurking behind Gaile, looking over her shoulder – we see life not through her eyes but through this imposing being – were often confusing, especially in the first part of the film, where the nature of her obsession wasn’t clear.
For the director, this confusion was essential in order to reflect Gaile’s distorted image of life. “She doesn’t see herself until she confronts herself in video, said Kristina Buozyte, director of the Lithuanian contender in the International competition of the Cairo International Film Festival.
It was a video presentation featuring Gaile’s methods in speech therapy that triggered this obsession. As soon as she saw herself detached from the children she works with, she broke into tears, for the first time since her father’s death. Throughout the film, scenes from the homemade video of her childhood that she used to watch at her father’s place provide a backdrop to her adventures, suggesting that what she does could be a pursuit to rediscover herself or merely cope with life.
The film borders on the perversion that loomed over Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “Secretary – the type of emotions most people won’t be able to relate to. Yet, the film also takes a common practice to its extreme. For a tech-savvy generation – anyone who uploads pictures on Facebook or any similar medium to share, or even accentuate, their emotional experiences via a slide of still images appearing on screen – could understand to a certain extent the underlying pleasure in Gaile’s obsession.
The director noted that many people would go to the cinema and experience a range of emotions, touched by situations they could easily overlook in real life.
She says this film doesn’t reflect a positive or negative opinion. “It’s just an observation, she added, explaining that the proliferation of technology into people’s lives can’t be avoided. And the young director – this $20,000 production was her graduation project – knows about the relatively excessive use of technology by the young. “It’s a picture culture . everyone now has a camera.