The Elf's Tower

Polina Kelm (director) & Petro Tsymbal (editor)




A theatre in a mental hospital brings patients to life again.

Project Description

The film will observe Serhiy and individual patients during the preparation of their performance “The Elf’s Tower” and the theatre’s life as such. “The Elf’s Tower” is a metaphoric tale, which was written by the patient of hospital. The theatre has become a place for patients to build a community and find themselves. We will learn the story of each of the characters individually and see how their stories combine to create something new and collective. The movie consists of recurring elements: conversations, events, celebrations, rehearsals and therapy sessions. When the show’s premiere seems to be close, then something always happens to delay it. With time passing by we are more and more involved. Step by step the audience are going to feel the scale of the work done and of Serhiy’s inner resources, which he puts into the performance. Gradually the audience will feel the empathy towards the main characters. We have 3 main protagonists: Zoya, Petya and Serhiy. First all the characters seem a bit comically exaggerated, and we are curious to watch their way of communication and perceiving the world. But gradually we get to know their sore points and switch from lightness to inner depth and real-life drama. One more character of the film is snow. It is the only attribute of the outer world the patients see. We don’t show the world outside the walls of the building. All the film through we stay inside the theatre – inside the audience, the lobby, the director’s room. It’s hard to see what season or time of day it is. We are in a place where time doesn’t exist. The feeling that all events are theatrical and unreal is emphasized. This effect is further enhanced by the constant presence of the same strange characters and their strange conversations. It’s often difficult to understand whether they are presenting their theatrical monologues or discussing personal matters. As the film hits its 2/3 the audience should start questioning the sanity of the director. We are planning an editing flip-flopper. The acting patients seem more in their senses than the compulsive, obsessed with the staging director. And as soon as we start to feel like that, all the troupe come to the director’s aid – they drag him out of his despair. They change places. Those whom we usually think to be outcasts and misfits turn out to be wiser and stronger. Together they find a way just to go on living. After all, the sense of life is the process of creating, and not the result. There’s nothing more important than the path and how you walk it. Every final is death, while the characters are striving to reach immortality.

Polina Kelm graduated from Kyiv National Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and TV University as a film director in 2010. She played in the film Lifespan Of The Object In Frame (2012) by A. Balagura that got a special mention at the FIDMarseille. Her short film Positive was selected for DOKLeipzig and HotDocs.

Petro Tsymbal worked as a sound engineer, editor, cinematographer and producer since 1997. He made on over 100 films (fiction, documentary, animation, TV-projects). His documentary The Living Fire got a special mention at the HotDocs in 2015. He is a member of Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers.

Do you love me

Project Index

The Castle

I, Poppy

Me, My Father and


Regarding Memory and


The Elf's Tower

Last Days at Sea

The New Greatness

The Other Side

of the River


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