Faraz Ansari | India | 2015 | 16 m


When Sputnik II was sent into space with a dog named Laika on board, it was a major leap for science. Laika’s unfortunate death in space was lauded as a worthy sacrifice for the sake of the betterment of humankind’s forays into space. But that’s the human point of view. Imagine yourself as Laika – unable to understand where you’re going, what you’re doing and not even knowing if there is a way back or will you only be left circling the orbit; around the earth and the world you know but just not in it. Imagine being isolated and alone and senselessly being controlled by forces that you don’t comprehend. And even if you had the force of reason, are you ever anything more than collateral damage? Or an achievement someone can tick off his or her list? Is your only purpose to serve as an example and a sacrifice?

The story of Siberia draws from and is dedicated to the story of Laika, sent into space in the Sputnik II. The film follows its central character, Reena, trapped a seemingly familiar scenario of a woman who believes that as she sits in her house, alone, she is apparently accompanied by the looming presence of a large rat. This fear traps her in the confines of her own home for a number of days, when she goes through periods of panic, intense calm, rushes of adrenaline, only to come out having vanquished the rat. But the question remains, how far has she really come and has her self-propelled exile really mattered?

And Reena is no ordinary woman. When we first see Reena, she is dressed to the nines in a figure-complimenting black dress, a pair of Louboutin shoes and stark red lipstick, bent on all fours trying to hunt down a rat. The sheer irony of the situation makes way for an insane set of reactions as her paranoia over a rat she cannot see and cannot control continues to torment her mind for days. Aside from the rat, the ambiance is really Reena’s companion. Whether it is the host of sounds – of barking dogs, her phone calls, the wind chimes and even the sound of her own breath and sniffles – or even the torch, which are like her eyes, on the hunt for the thing she fears most, especially when she is the most distracted, Reena isn’t wholly alone in dealing with her fear. The fish that present themselves when she looks for a support in her state are there too, but whether they’re actually present or just manifestations of her own need to break out of isolation, remains to be understood.

Throughout her isolation, Reena has no physical human contact, although one does see her have the occasional and short phone conversations that don’t seem to have any beginning or end, much like her pursuit for the rat., given which, one really asks oneself whether the rat is really a metaphor for the decay in Reena’s own life, or the general decay in human life, which comes from ceaselessly chasing goals and ambitions only to come to no concrete end, but to continue on in a race that no one really seems to win.

Left to her own devices in a seemingly cold world, Reena must go through this journey of fear, despair and the ultimate closure (or lack thereof), which is quite like going through life – using the best weapons we’ve got, going through the process of trial and error, and finally reaching the end of a wheel that never quite stops turning.

Aahana Kumra