Credit: Film Movement
by Zachary Goldkind Featured Film Horizon Line

The Earth is Blue As an Orange — Iryna Tsilyk

April 28, 2022

The Earth is Blue As an Orange relies on an immediacy that only somewhat masks its flippant, fleeting nature.

It’s difficult to approach a work that’s politic is one you disagree with and find reductive, whilst understanding that such perspective stems directly from one’s internalized materialist approach to both the world and art. That’s to say that this writer’s reception to The Earth is Blue As an Orange is filtered through this critical philosophical disagreement between the film’s director and myself. But if anything, such discord offers a platform for the percolation of good dialectical debate. Discerning, over years, discussions artists participate in with regard to the subject of “Art,” it’s easy to notice the majority of talking points often suffer from idealist inflations. In fact, it’s not a stretch to suggest an egotism to these discourses, artists insinuating that their work can do much of anything to provoke change, to have real material impact. Certainly, there are examples of this proving true, but it’s actually in these exceptions that the rule is proved. How much art, after all, is made? How much art do we consume constantly? How much art does not yet even exist within our awareness, regardless if it exists somewhere out there, floating amongst an oversaturated circuit? And how much of this art comes from artists who swear to an end goal of “making a change”? Art and its evocations are, after all, the crux of Iryna Tsilyk’s The Earth is Blue as an Orange, a documentary observing a Donbass-based household of filmmakers amongst the years-long warfare between separatist fighters and the Ukrainian Military. Caught in between the bullets and artillery, naturally, are the people, though in this case we only gain peripheral glimpse of the damage. The film is most attuned to processes of creation that the Hladka/Trofymchuk family engage with through the months, time that elapses all too quickly in the brief, sub-80-minute runtime.

Art, of course, always means something to its creators. It’s easy to understand the sensation evinced in the film’s finale, where Hanna Hladka — matriarch not of her bloodline, but certainly of her household — watches the film she had made with her family in the company of friends and loved ones. Within the text of the film, such a final sentiment offers very clear-minded subjectivity from Tsilyk, whose film becomes about the beauty and phenomenological oneness of art as an expression to break through the burden of what you cannot control, of what you are recurrently the victim of. It’s an optimistic assertion, but rather transient beyond the temporality of the film’s construction. Art, like happiness, exists evanescently, occurring in moments of encounter, perhaps resurfacing through fractured memory or in other opportunities of meeting. This transience should be where we understand that art must eventually be put away: not forgotten, but side-stepped, in order to address no longer the art, but the ideas and emotions it has evoked. Where are those sentiments stemming from? What does your positionality in confluence with these resonances say about you, about your situation, and how can we begin to utilize this for material or intellectual growth? Such an integral question is never asked during The Earth is Blue as an Orange, and, for myself, such an absence, in favor of giving primacy to the dubious relationship we have with cultural artifacts such as a film, distinguishes this work as ultimately escapist in philosophy. This work doesn’t offer wide enough a spectrum of experience and perspective to enable that escapism to become complicated as a subject of debate. Rather, it lies flippantly and is accepted for its immediacy. Such immediacy, in the eyes of this writer, renders the film immature, stagnating, and luxuriating in idealism.