A a wonderful calm envelops Evgeny Kalachikhin’s contemplative documentary which observes the daily routines of the inhabitants of Kuzomen, Chavanga and Tetrino, three isolated Russian villages on the Kola Peninsula, on the White Sea coast (to which the title refers). Far from the trappings of technology, these people still live in wooden houses and spend their days fishing, cooking and repairing their rudimentary boats.
There is a painterly beauty in the way the camera keeps its distance from its subject; thrifty in words, the soundscape is largely composed of silences, natural sounds and a magnificent classical score. Much of the film consists of wide shots that capture startling views of verdant fields, rocky beaches that stretch into infinity, and the gentle rippling of the White Sea, all of which inspire a sense of therapeutic calm. On this edge between water and land, time has stood still. Yet this way of life is on the verge of extinction. A postscript in the end credits notes how, over the past three decades, more than 30,000 villages in Russia has disappeared.
Indeed, warning signs dot the graceful landscape, like the dilapidated and abandoned houses that stand solemnly against the fog and winds. Yet even in difficult times, like a wildfire spreading across the plains, the community’s strength of resilience triumphs over its geographic isolation, as villagers form a chain to carry buckets of water to the affected area. .
Although the meditative style may seem a little emotionally withdrawn, its reflection also helps us to immerse ourselves more completely and more physically in a country that seems to come from a bygone era.