Past Future Mountain
short film, 2021

The film takes us into a fairy tale world at the intersection of real and dreamlike, inner and outer, personal and global, past and future; the world of the Carpathian Gutsul culture. The mountains speak, urging the protagonist to go on a quest, and the mountain’s spirits intervene in human destiny.

The heroine of the film, Marichka, needs to face and overcome her fears to become the narrator of the fairy tale. Only then can she change the destiny of a young man, who fell from the top of the mountain, and that of a social group that has decided to close their eyes to avoid collective fear.



The story revolves around a young woman Marichka, who needs to go on a quest to find out more about a fairy tale that her grandmother started telling her when she was a child but did not finish. At the beginning of the film, she is a little frightened girl who can only find comfort and protection in her grandmother. Through her eyes, we are taken into her first childhood nightmare and subsequent trauma: the fear of death and of being left alone that, as a self-defence mechanism, she hides inside an old chest. Then, the grown-up Marichka finds the book that her grandmother read to her when she was a child, but the pages are blank. She has to listen to an inner voice that leads her up to the mountain, where she sees women with covered eyes and a man falling from the top of the mountain.

From this moment onwards, the personal quest of this young woman becomes interweaved with another layer of the story where the same motives repeat themselves on a macro scale. The women with covered eyes can be seen as a collective symbol of society. The conscious decision to close their eyes in order not to face collective traumas and problems leads to the loss of identity and the growth of social pres- sure. Theonewhois, a young man who falls from the top of the mountain, just as all the other characters of the story, can be seen both as a hero and as a part of Marichka’s soul; a reflection of her fear. He chose to live a different life but took the wrong step and cannot return unless healthy consciousness in his community is restored. Every time Marichka tries to save him she fails and, in one scene, she even becomes trapped in this web symbolized by a red ribbon.

Marichka leaves her home, but throughout the film something brings her back there — the old chest in which she stored her childhood fear, the one she needs to face. During her quest, Marichka meets two female archetypal figures and mountain spirits rooted in Carpathian folklore: Povitrulya – her magical guide – and Bogynka – a dark spirit who tries to stop her from accomplishing her mission. Played by one single actress, as two sides of one coin, Povitrulya is a force for acceptance, healing and rebirth, while Bogynka, not being able to overcome her trauma, is a force of destruction who can only be defeated by facing the truth. In search of revenge, she captures Theonewhois. Meanwhile, near the river, Marichka says goodbye to her grandmother and sees herself as a child. By finding comfort within herself, she is able to internalise the spiritual presence of her grandmother. Then, following the key, she goes back home to find out what is inside the old chest and makes a sacri- fice in order to get the powers of the wind. As she becomes free of her burden and light as the wind, she manages to trick Bogynka and changes a moment in past, becoming the narrator of the destiny of Theonewhois and his people.
By taking the viewer into a fairy tale world the film aims to tackle current pressing issues. All characters of the film: Marichka, Theonewhois and the women on top of the mountain, Bogynka and Povitrulya, as well as the Gutsul culture itself, are on the brink of past and future, and in different ways go through a journey of facing and overcoming their fears. The key is to take the path to a new life; it can be frightening and hard, but it is better than living with your eyes closed. The plot revolves around possible scenarios of forgetting one’s roots, the conscious avoidance of facing traumas and fears, both on a micro and macro levels. Only by going on a personal quest, is Marichka able to make a change on a macro level, revealing herself not only as the heroine but also as the narrator of the fairy tale about a girl accomplishing her mission as a storyteller in society. What happens to the young woman is what happens in every person’s life, to anyone who decides to open their eyes as only through this can they guide other people to finding the new ways of looking at the world and acting within it.

Background (1): in and through fairy tales

Digging deep into my own memories and dreams, experiences and feelings, fears and hopes, this project derived from this inner journey. Then, it based itself on in-depth research, fairy tales being the main frame and as a source of knowledge. I explored its psychological aspects (such as the main motives, the hero’s path, the psyche, inner growth and dilemmas of the protagonist), symbolism, structure and linguistic patterns. The film plays with the structure and main motives of fairy tales, following and breaking them, changing perspectives between the narrator and the heroine of the story who are, in fact, the same person. Then, I explored archetypal feminine figures in fairy tales and chose two contrasting principles: The Sleeping Beauty and the Dark Side of the Goddess as the frame for my story. Following the previous step, I conducted research into Carpathian folklore and culture and found two characters from Carpathian fairy tales (Bogynka and Povitrulya) that correlated with the global feminine principles I had chosen and with the main conflict of the film. However, the role of Gutsul culture in the film is not limited to only this.
Background (2) Gutsul culture and role of nature in the film

The Carpathian Mountains and the Gutsul culture play a large role in the film on many levels. Conceptually, the film shows their beliefs, their closeness to nature, depicting a unique worldview and describing its current situation. For many centuries, the Carpathian Mountains remained quite isolated from the rest of the world. Local people kept their own views, influenced by the mythological perceptions and unity with nature that formed the basis of their culture which can be seen in their fairy tales. The world of Carpathians is inhabited by many spirits that live in the mountains, rivers, forests, who can either help or cause harm. With a strong pagan influence, the Gutsul culture pays much attention to worshipping nature and renewal, the circular passage of time.

The landscape can be seen as another dimension and as an equal protagonist in the film, reflecting the emotional state of the heroine, bearing symbolical meaning, bringing danger and safety, fear and hope. Both in the wild mountainous landscape and in the Carpathian culture, Marichka searches for spiritual growth by returning to the origins – here kind forces co-exist with evil ones, superstition with wisdom.

The film does not intend to make a statement about local cultures in a globalised world, but rather show a local culture within it. The film contains many elements of Carpathian folklore and culture: decorations, costumes, Gutsul musical elements and the local dialect. The filming itself took place in the mountains, and the roles of the grandmother, the child and the women on top of the mountains were played by locals. These actors still hold onto their traditions, perform in their own surround- ings, wear traditional costumes and want to share their culture with the world. However, this culture can be seen as an endangered one, just like many other local cultures around the world, and we might be one of the last generations to witness it.

Written, directed, filmed & edited

by Mariia Lukianchuk


Starring

Marichka (grown up) — Valeria Berezovska

Theonewhois — Andrii Ptitsyn

Povitrulya, Bogynka — Angelina Andriushina

Grandmother — Vasylyna Zelenchuk

Marichka (child) — Anastasia Kozulym

Women on top of the mountain — Ganna Lutsiuk, Kateryna Yurniuk, Vasylyna Zelenchuk


Voiceover

Solomiya Kyrylova

Music

Hutsul band Bai


Costumes

Tatiana Makogon

Mariia Lukianchuk

Bull mask

Olga Yeriemieiva

Film trailer
Full film
behind the scenes
Past Future Mountain
where does the film come from? how it evolves?
The Beginning
of the path of Past Future Mountain
This film is my graduation project from a bachelor in Interdisciplinary Arts studies in ZUYD Academy of Applied Sciences (Maastricht, The Netherlands). Throughout my degree my vision, mediums, themes and approaches have formed and developed. On my 1st year, I created my first video Inevit(ability) or I am not tall enough for the individual research lab. It was when I discovered stop motion technique, applied my visual language and aesthetics on the medium of film and touched upon a narrative on the verge of reality and dream.

This is a dream about reality in which reality becomes a dream
On my 2nd year for the project, curated by filmmakers Quirine Racké and Helena Muskens, I made a 7-minute film Spiderweb for Shelter and Hunt which, in many ways, created a basis for my further search in cinematography. This project made a number of things visible: the development in my style and stop motion approach, experiments with sound and the suitability and contrast between sound and image, use of symbols and decorations and the search for the female image and spiritual roots and routes within one family.

To fly, spider needs to create a thread and surrender to the wind. Spiderweb becomes his main creation and the only way to interact with the world, it is his shelter and his tool to hunt
Graduation Strategy
First visions, ideas and knowledge
When I started working on my Graduation Strategy, I already had an idea of the direction I wanted to take. The key elements were: film, femininity and the relation to the Carpathian Mountains. First, I called the project A Story of the Land and Femininity in film and, while working on my GS, I searched for connection between them — it appeared as an approach to storytelling, based on archetypal stories (on a global level - through Jungian school of psychoanalysis, and on a local - in the Carpathian folklore). So in a way for me this year was a path of deepening my knowledge on the subject, and my vision and approaches in cinematography, aimed to bring my artistic practice to the next level. The title Past Future Mountain appeared very naturally already at this stage. I was sure that it will be a working title that will be changed for the final film, but only during filming stage I could comprehend how appropriate and almost providential it was. As well, during these times some visions, images and thoughts on the story of Past Future Mountain started to come.

Position Paper

In September, I started my theoretical research into archetypal psychology, fairy tales and the female image in them, based on the followers of Jungian School of psychoanalysis, who devoted their practice to this theme: Marie-Louise von Franz, Campbell, Joseph John Campbell, Clarissa Pinkola Estés; I read and analysed many fairy tales, and dived into their motives, structure, symbolical and linguistic patterns. At the same time, I worked on different projects, connected to filmmaking and video, and made a first trip to the Carpathian Mountains.

Challenge 1
Time to connect the dots
However, at this time the first breaking point happened. By November, I had not managed to complete my research into stop motion films as initially planned. I wanted to jump into the process of making a film so badly that I had missed an important step – the one that connected all the dots. I had some idea of the story, but in my head it did not connect to the research I had conducted. Moreover, the first trip to the mountains led to frustration and inner conflict: I did not find there the image that was on my mind, I was not sure what questions to ask the local people and the mountains did not speak to me, so the place of the Carpathian culture in my project was lost. But I learned a very important lesson – to find something, you need to know what you are searching for. Some shots of nature that I had taken in Autumn were only used in the Spring, when I knew the story and their place in it.

As a consequence, I had to resit Position Paper. After overcoming initial inner resistance, I went full on into the reflection on the process. In one month, I did research into stop motion films by Jan Švankmajer and Jiří Barta, based on archetypal stories. I also dived into Carpathian folklore – its magic and role in my story – and it all fell into place. Bogynka and Povitrulya appeared and connected my story to the research on archetypal femininity and fairy tales, the reasons and ways I wanted to use the medium became clear, and all the dots connected, creating a strong base for finally jumping into the artistic process.

Artistic Process
of making a film
With the artistic concept development, my aim was to make an artistic transformation of the knowledge I had gained, connecting it to my experience and vision and developing it in relation to the medium of film. I worked on clarifying the intention I wanted to convey, developing the story and uniting it with the female principles and Carpathian characters. Another aim of mine was to cover all the stages of making a film: both artistic and organisational. My external coaches, filmmakers Quirine Racké and Helena Muskens, guided me and helped me understand the steps needed in order for a film to appear and be watched by an audience. We went through all the documents that a filmmaker needs to complete and present on different stages: longline and synopsis, director’s vision statement, script, script breakdown, moodboard, storyboard, character’s description etc.


from the moodboard: on the verge of ethnical and surreal
Despite time constraints, one of the main challenges, working on the script was a very beautiful process; before I could feel that my story was clear, I worked on 4 versions of it. From one to another, I needed to go from the outside to the inside and again to the outside, to connect lateral and vertical ways of thinking, to go in-depth into my feelings and emotions but then to connect the subconscious visions to the conscious intention of the film.

After that, I started the preproduction stage of filming, making the sketches of the costumes and decorations and collaborating with the makers; finding and starting meetings with the actors and searching for locations.

I have realised that once the story became clear to me, I barely had problems communicating it to the people I wanted to involve in the project. However, the main challenge was related to time and different tasks needed to be done which required different energies and mindsets: all the stages were in a way mixed. While I was still developing the story and the vision on filming, I needed to communicate to my collaborators and partners, to put organisational tasks in order to set the filming stage, to also work on some decorations and solve challenges of different levels, while managing to keep my mental sanity. But the second challenge/turning point was still about to come.
Challenge 2
Time to take risks
Organising a filming in a different place on the other side of the country was quite of a challenge: there were things difficult to predict and arrange beforehand, especially not having a connection with the locals before coming to the place. In a perfect scenario, before the filming stage there would have been a trip to search for locations and actors, but time and budget wise it was not possible. Corona created another challenge — one week before the planned dates of the trip the trains from Kiev to the mountains stopped working, and other ways were not possible taking into account amount all the stuff I needed to take for filming. Another challenge was the weather — it was April, however, the weather forecast was rain, snow and 5 degrees. I had conversations with my external coaches and family members, and everybody advised to me to consider finding another location and filming somewhere near Kiev. I almost followed that thought, but deep inside I was struggling, trying to understand whether making filming in the mountains, the core of my project, was worth taking risks, or whether it was my stubbornness. One evening I wrote to one of the actors, explaining the situation and sharing my worries. Andrii met with me and encouraged me to go on the trip; he also said he knew some people in the mountains that could help with actors and locations. Through them I got in touch with the local cultural activist who was on the call with me every day, coming up with ideas and advice. What is more, a friend of Andrii wanted to go to the mountains by car and, when he heard about our plans, decided to set the dates according to our filming stage. This situation taught me that you don’t need to be alone the whole time and that it is crucial to ask for help. People don’t know that you struggle and don’t understand how they can help unless you communicate it. It’s okay to be scared at a crucial moment but act anyway.

The filming itself was both magical and nervewracking. As it was my biggest filming so far, I tried to have a daily plan including locations and made a detailed storyboard and script breakdown, so in my head everything was clear. However, things turned out differently. Because of the changes in weather, we needed to film in one day scenes that I planned for 3 days. Also, the day before filming the girl, who was arranged to perform, got sick. So in one day we found new actresses and magically they appeared to be perfect for the roles, and what’s more, the woman playing the grandmother was the owner of the museum where we then decided to shoot scenes in the house, changing the initial location. In general, the filming phase was a huge experience, working in unusual locations (such as the mountain), communicating with people whom I knew and whom I did not know, who were professional actors and who were not, and also working with the child, which was a real challenge. Despite everything, my team and I were on the same page and waking up at 6 am, filming and living together made the trip a an amazing experience. Only when I was in the mountains did I realise how crucial this location was for my film and I was thankful that I was able to make it: everything was natural, locals in their surroundings in their own clothes, nature itself as well as the protagonist in the film; it had truth that I would not be able to recreate in any other place.
backstage
a sacred process of editing
For me, the film is born during the editing phase. I take it as a very sacred process, I dive fully into it, taking care of every second (as required by stop motion) and letting my intuition lead it. Obviously, I followed the script and the storyboard, but also the feelings the footage conveyed. In my last short film, I already touched upon the experimental connection between image and sound, and this time I went deeper into it, playing with the suitability and contrast between sound and image, making the verbal language more abstract and emotional: thinking of what the audience needs to hear and what should be there to give a hint, what should be louder and why — taking the sound from the perspective of what the heroine of the film feels and how much she herself knows at that point in film.

Event
Past Future Mountain in the cinema
Last winter, I decided to take a chance and to write to Iryna Zarya, the film producer and the owner of Oscar Cinema in Kiev, introducing her to some of my work, sharing the idea and the vision of the film that I had on that stage and asking for a meeting. I was very glad to hear her positive response and hopeful after the meeting she gave me some useful advice, encouragement and contacts of other professionals from the sphere, and proposed to have the premiere of the film at the cinema. However, I knew that I would be able to get the final ‘yes’ only after showing her the final work, and a lot of things were still in the air. During the presentation of the Artistic Concept, I received some advice not to rely only on the name of the woman and to think of alternative ways to present a film, may be closer to the setting of feminist communities etc. But, while thinking of other options, I started feeling even stronger that cinema premiere was something that really suited my intention, as I wanted the film to be seen by a less chosen audience and did not want to make frames for its perception, as it would be with groups of activists, and I also wanted to take a chance and launch myself and my work in the professional field. So I hoped it would work out, contacting some art places where my work could be shown as an option B on the side.
I got a final positive response from Iryna a week before the event, and by that time I had just finished my film. Organising it in such a short period of time was a challenge in itself, not even taking into account my nervousness about showing a film and making a speech in front of an audience. I created brochures, posters and visual materials for social media and almost all places were taken the day I a post on my Instagram. To get the result I wanted, I divided the audience into three categories: people who were involved in a film, a general audience and some professionals from the field that I wanted to get in touch with and to whom I had sent a personal invitation.

As my partner, Iryna gave me gave me some advice for the structure of the event: it consisted of intro speech, film screening followed by casual talks with drinks in a cinema bar. She also connected me to a professional, who helped me prepare my film for cinema screening. As a result, the premiere went better than I could have ever hoped. I received many responses, questions and felt an interest of the audience and of the professionals from the field, which mean a lot to me at this stage. It also gave me a broader understanding of the need for art films instead of the more commercial or entertaining production that curenty prevails in Ukraine. Event organisation was challenging, hard and a time/energy consuming process but it was definitely worth it, and what I have learned so far will lead me further, giving confidence and understandings.
people sharing some impressions from
the event and film on instagram
Project management
stages of making a film // collaborations and partnering
The project management for me was driven from two important factors: the way I wanted to position myself on this instance and in the future — as a film director.; and the way and the process of making a film requires. Going from this, I created a planning that made it possible for film production to take place in a quite limited amount of time and the ways I wanted to engage people in it.

The ways I involved people in my work can be divided in three categories:

artistic collaborations with all the people that were engaged into the creative process of making a film: actors, costume and decoration makers, musicians, sound recorders and so on.

engaging with local community of people from the Carpathian Mountains: the ones who helped me with setting the production there, and the ones who performed in the film. The whole filming took place in the mountains, and the roles for the grandmother, child and women on top of the mountain were played by the people from the community.

partnering with Iryna Zarya, the film producer and the cinema owner in Kiev, who helped me organise the event and also connected me to other professionals from the sphere that might help me in the future.
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Through this experience, I learned different ways to communicate my ideas and vision, encourage people to take part in the project and get interested in it. I have also learned that there are times you need to be on your own, and there is a moment you need to open the doors for other people, but still with an understanding of how much and what type of influence you can allow, and what cannot be question in order for you to stay true to the initial intention of the project. I really took a challenge to put myself in a professional field at this stage, to communicate my strengths but also to be clear about the things I still need to learn. I also can say that this experience showed me the atmosphere I want to have in my future teams — I am very grateful that people who worked with me were so enthusiastic and open.

As I said before, among other goals, this project for me came from the need to find answers. Apart from more spiritual answers, it was a process of lessons and discoveries. I know understand that I went on a quest and took a challenge – if I managed to do al this in a short amount of time, and despite all the difficulties, I would enjoy it, that would be the answer in itself. I built this project the way I want to work in the future, also regarding my position and the role of other people in it, and I wanted to fully dive into the whole process of making and presenting a film. I have got my answer, I feel I am on my path and that I can do it many more times, and on a bigger scale.

on the verge between past and future

Now, with regard to the film itself, I’m on the verge between past and future. I’m closing one chapter of my life, which I will always remember with warm feelings – iArts, but the path of my film does not end here nor after its premiere in the cinema. Now Past Future Mountain is traveling through international film festivals. This step is very important to bring me further, and it makes me very happy to see my film growing and be seen by a wider audience. My next step is to continue working on the next short films, bringing them on a bigger scale, searching for budgetings, grants and residences, working in a bigger team, developing as a director and striving to improve my work both technically and regrading its depth and storytelling. In two or three years’ time, I want to apply for a master program in film direction and take my path to a feature film.
Thank you for walking this path with me!
Made on
Tilda