Towards Benares

A different gaze. A poetic journey.
Free of anything that is not enchantment, wonder, pure horror, bewilderment. It is 1899, and Pierre Loti is about to witness the first sunset of the new century, immersed in the ‘eternal vegetation’ of an Indian lagoon. Ready to leave behind him the bitter disappointment of the West and the values it embodies. Here at last lies that long-awaited India: mirage, phantasmagoria, mystery and exoticism on the one hand; ruin, decadence, cruelty and death on the other. In the constant search for an ‘elsewhere’ that might outweigh death, for a reason to live, for an absolute truth. Captured by the allure of wild nature, by the sumptuous ceremonies and majestic temples, disturbed by the ‘horrid caves’ and the magic of those ‘enchanted’ cities, but above all captured by the mystical faces and ‘ardent sensuality’ of the Indians themselves, he finds himself more than ever in love with life, with beauty and with the real world. Then comes his first bitter disappointment: a spirituality that turns out to be nothing more than “the asylum of emptiness and nothingness,” incapable of providing any guarantee of immortality, of eternity. Then Benares: the holy city. The last stop, the place where – he hopes – he will be able to bring to an end his spiritual quest, to find the truth, to learn renunciation, silence and peace.
Or perhaps, simply, a sort of “joyless bliss.” The film portrays a real journey, but also one back through time.

Accompanied by a tale of a personal discovery, recorded over 120 years ago through eyes full of spontaneous and genuine awe before the poetry of the sublime and the horrid, we cross India. Capturing images along his path to Benares, without an order, without a plot but simply retracing his steps, we are guided by his distant voice, over a century old.
Letting ourselves be overwhelmed by what has remained unchanged and unchangeable, seeing it now just as it was then. Trying to shape that kaleidoscope of visions which his words continue to arouse in the reader.

  • Giovanni Vignali
  • Giorgia Prata
  • Giovanni Vignali
  • Giorgia Prata
  • Giovanni Vignali
  • GIorgia Prata
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    documentary, film, docu-film
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 9 minutes 59 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    12,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital Full-HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
    Black & White and Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director - Giovanni Vignali, Giorgia Prata