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Can you love someone for life? – and other eternal questions on romantic devotion

The Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich is best known for her oral histories, which confront difficult subjects such as the Chernobyl disaster and the experience of children during the Second World War. Through her work, she’s given a voice to the suffering wrought by some of the 20th century’s most significant events. But for an upcoming book, Alexievich has chosen to chronicle how a range of Russian voices view a force that just might be responsible for the most euphoria – and pain – in human history: romantic love.

In this excerpt from the documentary Lyubov: Love in Russian (2017), shot while Alexievich was gathering material for the book, she probes three interviewees on their outlook on love, and its relationship with human flourishing – concepts she believes are seldom talked about in eastern Slavic cultures. With a fly-on-the-wall approach, the Swedish director Staffan Julén invites viewers to sit in on these intimate conversations, which Alexievich approaches with openness and curiosity. While framed in a Russian context, the questions Alexievich invites her subjects to grapple with are ultimately universal and timeless: Can you ever be sure you’re in love? Is it possible to love someone for life? Can you truly live a full life without a romantic companion to share it with?

Directors: Staffan Julén, Svetlana Alexievich

2 June 2020

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