Does a film always have to have a significant storyline to create a significant experience? Does a feature have to always reflect the structure of a novel rather than a poem or a song? This year the Riga IFF retrospective programme makes an inquiry into the nature of the narrative in cinema – it's spectrum and limitations. These are moments when we have challenged the cinema and the very artform has challenged us, the audience has been challenged by the authors and the authors – challenged by their own merits.

In the aftermath of the WWIII all life on Earth is destroyed; radiation is everywhere. Scientists hope to find a solution by traveling in time, into the past and the future. Meanwhile, there is life in the underground concentration camps. In there, a man who is forced to travel will experience before his death a love affair with a woman from another time.

In the aftermath of the 1968 student riots that led to widespread strikes and threatened to topple the government, a young woman retreats to a country farmhouse. Her respite is a result of some unnamed incident which profoundly disturbs the girl but is never entirely revealed. She spends most of her time writing letters in the nude and dreaming of being reunited with her revolutionary boyfriend.

Laurie Anderson is one of the world’s coolest musicians and artists, and American musician Lou Reed’s wife. Here she shines in a personal, essayistic film about death, love, language and a dog.

Guy Maddin says it’s important to plant a grain the viewer’s eye to keep them alert—a motto he has been faithful to throughout his work of creation, not least in his latest film The Forbidden Room. In this playful, and Venice-prized, documentary we get a delightful trip through Maddin’s richly populated universe.

The collage artist Lewis Klahr has long been one of the American experimental film scene’s most interesting directors. Clearly having things in common with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, he reforms the sixties’ pop cultural picture bank to melancholic miniature where Marvel heroes from the society of Mad Men meet Greek tragedy.

A never-before-seen woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that’s been trapped deep under water for months with an unstable cargo. As the terrified crew make their way through the corridors of the doomed vessel, they find themselves on a voyage into the origins of their darkest fears.

A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth’s persona.