A work of fiction that emerges directly from elements of reality: a newspaper article, the space occupied by a small town, and its surroundings. A young man (Giedrius Kiela) and a young woman (Gabija Bargailaite) drive from Vilnius to a village to find out something…. 

The viewer is given very little information, and as the film proceeds, we slowly start to understand what happened and what reunites them. There is a sense of familiarity, and of sharing the trauma of a horrible event. They both have a profound need to understand, but they couldn’t be more different. One moves with aggressiveness, the other moves with care, but they both need the same thing: to be in contact with the last people and spaces Matas was in contact with, to sink into his waters, to believe that a person’s presence remains beyond death.

Filmmaker Laurynas Bareiša uses absence as a structuring principle, unfurling the plot by way of rumors and insinuations. Matas’ death is at once the film’s unresolved enigma and its epicenter; by refusing to make it visible and forcing us to picture it ourselves, to conjure our own version of the events, not only does Pilgrims make its central secret almost unbearably unnerving, it also makes us accomplices in its unearthing. 

Skillfully doling out narrative information piece by piece and layer upon layer in scenes marked by elegant, sinister single takes, Bareiša has created a foreboding, yet ultimately hopeful portrait of people racked with trauma and unresolved anger.

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