Everything Is Illuminated is the indie film Kallipolitans have all prayed for; the 2005 directorial debut of Liev Schreiber is an adaptation of a ground-breaking novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The novel features dual narration simultaneously. The first one is by the methodical main character travelling to the Ukraine to discover how his grandfather survived the holocaust. The second narration utilizes the broken English and unique mannerisms of a Ukrainian tour guide who as he guides the traveller through this journey of self-discovery discovers his own history. The film adapts this split narration not by adapting two narrators but by creating an aesthetic narrative that bridges worlds. Elijah Wood and Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz bring the aesthetic duality to life. The film is an engrossing tale of self-discovery; the entertaining, captivating, merry and concurrently macabre adventure of discovering one’s future by understanding one’s past.
Yet there is something to be said for a film that possesses more than an enticing story but an aesthetic that enlightens our understanding of the story. The soundtrack is blessed by the sounds of Romani punk band Gogol Bordello and Russian reggae band Leningrad. This sonic choice lays more than the background music but it lays the foundation for the apex of cinema. That is when the soundtrack contributes to the film’s individuality; which is not a matter of personalization but that is to say the film has a life of its own. The music, the aesthetic, and the story all form the film’s identity. During the final narration the Ukrainian guide says that everything is illuminated by the light of the past and this creates a connection between people that we cannot break. Indeed everything is illuminated in the light of the past as this film’s individualistic identity is illuminated by its shared history. A story of life and love that escape even death.