Industrial city of Norilsk: factories, cold, chemical air. The only desire of young people living here is to leave, against all odds. A docu-style, emotionally-driven drama about a young girl desperately fighting for an escape which is so blurry, and for love which is so insecure.
Due to its vast industrial areas and enormous industrial output, the Russian city of Norilsk has become one of the most polluted places in the world. However, despite the persistent ecological crisis, the severe northern climate and harsh living conditions, life goes on there in its own extreme, as well as routine, way. But the will to live that such an existence fosters is actually the will, or rather the dream, to escape, especially for a young generation. A desperate, hardly possible dream that moves and traps its adherents, turning against them. Continue reading
Oriental Elegy (1996). Visually impressionistic, atmospherically dense, and narratively opaque, Oriental Elegy is the surreal journey of a displaced spirit (Aleksandr Sokurov) as he wanders in the interminable darkness through the temporal landscape of a quaint and isolated feudal-era fishing village. Guided by a series of faintly illuminated rooms, the wandering spirit comes upon ancient souls who take on physical forms as they recount their personal stories of daily existence, loss, and tragedy in the peasant community. Intrigued by his initial visit to a curiously distracted elderly woman, the spirit returns to her home in order to ask a fundamental question – “What is happiness?” – an existential query that is innocently answered with innate humility and accepted unknowingness. Through abstractly textured imagery and indelibly hypnotic dreamscapes, Sokurov composes a metaphoric, sensual, and evocative tone poem on a soul’s search for enlightenment and the essential survival of human consciousness. Continue reading
Winter is never-ending in Aleksei Guerman’s impenetrable film ”Khroustaliov, My Car!,” a nearly two-and-a-half hour absurdist nightmare of life in the Soviet Union during the final days of Stalin’s rule. Snow falls in almost every scene of this starkly grim, black-and-white movie, which follows the triumph, fall from grace and hasty rehabilitation of a hulking Red Army general and brain surgeon named Yuri Glinshi (Yuri Tsourilo). Processions of black government vehicles are forever materializing like ominous phantoms through the curtains of snow that drift over a dilapidated town decorated with gleaming white statues of the beady-eyed, mustached Soviet dictator. Continue reading
Little Shop of Horrors, Russian Style
By Oleg Liakhovich The Moscow News
On the heels of the XXVI Moscow International Film Festival came an event even more pompous and widely publicized – the premiere of a movie meant to spark a revival of Russia’s popular cinema while giving Hollywood a battle royale on its own terms
Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor in original Russian) depicts the on-going struggle between the magical forces of good and evil in present-day Moscow. The movie was eagerly awaited by fans and became an object of an intense advertising campaign in all media. Its US $3mln budget – an incredible sum for a local movie – and plentiful special effects, also a novelty for Russian cinema with its established traditions of inexpensive quality dramas and solid adaptations of literary classics, were to make Night Watch Russia’s equivalent of an American summer blockbuster. The producers actually went as far as officially calling it “the first Russian blockbuster” long before it had the chance to appear on screen. Even Russia’s own Oscar winner and self-styled national sage director Nikita Mikhalkov, while admitting that the film “wasn’t his thing”, said that it was “cool” and called it Russia’s “answer to Quentin Tarantino”. Serious praise indeed – after all, only a dirty mind would suspect Mikhalkov of still being sore at old Quentin for “stealing” his Palme d’Or in Cannes back in 1994.
Lightsaber, Anyone? Continue reading
Sanja the Bandit after a particularly vicious shootout, stumbles into the musician Oleg at the local banya. Following a retelling of a semi-mythological story, the pair decide to make a pilgrimage to a “bell-tower of happiness”. Continue reading
Richard Harris stars as a foreign entrepreneur, who ventures to Russia in 1885 with dreams of selling a new, experimental steam-driven timber harvester in the wilds of Siberia. Julia Ormond portrays his assistant, who falls in love with a young Russian officer, played by Russian star Oleg Menshikov, and spends the next 10 years perfecting the harvester and pursuing her love, who has been exiled to Siberia.
A loose remake of 12 Angry Men (1957), set in a Russian school in the war-torn republic of Chechnya. 12 jurors are struggling to decide the fate of a Chechen teenager (Apti Magamaev) who allegedly killed his Russian stepfather. The jurors: a racist taxi-driver, a suspicious doctor, a vacillating TV producer, a Holocaust survivor, a flamboyant musician, a cemetery manager, and others represent the fragmented society of modern day Russia. Amidst the battle between Chechens and Russians outside, a stray bird (a touch of New Age cinema) is flying above the jurors heads, alluding to tolerance. Written by Steve Shelokhonov