The story of Russian emigrant Lillian Alling, who, in 1926, set out to walk from New York to her native Russia via Alaska before disappearing into thin air, has inspired several books, an opera and now a gets a ravishingly cinematic treatment from acclaimed documentarian Andreas Horvath. Setting the story in the present day (but somehow seeming rooted in the 1970s, like a long lost Wim Wenders feature), Lillian’s epic journey takes her across cities, ghost towns, deserted highways, wide open plains, mountain ranges, native American reservations and Arctic wilderness. Years in the making, it’s a real labour of love for Horvath, who also took on camera duties and composed the film’s evocative score.
Finding beauty in the mundane as well as in the spectacular, Horvath reveals the underbelly of outsider America though derelict buildings, polluting factories, banal radio chat and overheard conversations. Shots of shop signs and notices speak volumes, none more so than a billboard reading “Girls Don’t Hitchhike on the Highway of Tears”, setting up a sequence of staggering beauty and invention. And what of Lillian? A true enigma, we know very little more about her at the end than we did at the beginning. It’s a captivating, entirely wordless performance from Polish photographer, visual artist and first-time actress Patrycja Planik.
Lillian has won 7 international film festival awards, amongst them the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2020 Tromsø International Film Festival, the Seymour Cassel Award – Best Actress at the 26th Oldenburg Film Festival 2019 and the award for Best Female Performance (Blue Angel) at the 27th Art Film Festival in Slovakia 2019.
“The Cannes Directors’ Fortnight has unearthed an absolute gem this year. Andreas Horvath’s Lillian is a road movie across America, which serves up a history lesson on Native Americans, a state-of-the-nation assessment on rural living and an otherworldly thriller with an environmental undertone.” – Kalim Aftas, Cineuropa
“The more Lillian heads into the winter wilderness the more attractive the film becomes. Ultimately Horvath manages to find an epic grandeur in the simple story of a woman just trying to make her way home.” – Allan Hunter, Screen International.
“An enigmatic road movie - never was a term more descriptive - that is at once a portrait of female spirit and determination and a reflection on the loneliness at the heart of America today.” - Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter.
“Horvath’s photography is always dazzling, accompanied by a sparse musical score to replace the dialogue, which never materialises. Lillian is a triumph of a spirited, enigmatic women, wandering through a society, where emotions and ideas have long died.” - Filmuforia.