It begins with slow, 360 grade pans of a camera showing snowy countryside somewhere in Russia. The soundtrack has some natural voices.
The camera then is set at a bus stop in a Russian village. It continues to pan into the same direction, showing people waiting, talking to each other, drinking beer, staring, giving an occasional glance at the camera. The soundtrack is clearly from a different source than the pictures, but similar to the world of images. It has elderly people talking about their hard everyday life: sicknesses, alcoholism, dire poverty, violent drunken husbands, poor hospitals etc. etc. The voices curse, argue…
The people start gradually crowd into a full bus, they get in, and the buses leave. Continue reading
Aleksey German Jr., son of famed Russian auteur Aleksey German, comes into his own prominence with his third feature Under Electric Clouds, which took home a cinematography award following its premiere at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival. Much like his father’s cinema, German announces similar interests in existentialist societal woes impervious to logical narrative format, and exchanges deliberations of the past (his previous title, Paper Soldier takes place in 1961) for the looming future of 2017 (a date that may dawn before the title premieres in certain international markets). With production delayed so German could put the finishing touches on his father’s posthumous masterpiece, Hard to Be a God, this indictment on the decaying cultural state of Russia tuned exactly one hundred years after the Russian Revolution is a critique as obscurely damning as it elusively oblique in tone. Some spectacular imagery providing a backdrop for overly pointed dialogue manages to settle under your skin despite its sometimes mystifying qualities. Continue reading
“If anything should happen to me, I beg you to show this tape to the whole world.” On November 23rd, 2006, these words, spoken on camera by exiled former KGB and FSB (post communist Russia’s dreaded new secret police) agent Alexander “Sasha” Litvinenko, became a gruesome self-fulfilling prophecy. After an agonizingly painful ordeal, Litvinenko succumbed to what was allegedly radiation poisoning from a lethal dose of toxic Polonium-210, surreptitiously slipped into his tea during a London meeting with two FSB ex-colleagues three weeks earlier. In Poisoned by Polonium: Continue reading
With three full feature films in two years under his belt, Igor Voloshin has both received critical acclaim and provoked public debates. Nirvana (2008), a “gothic cyber-punk” about drug addiction, got Voloshin the Best Debut prize at the Kinotavr film festival in Sochi. In March 2009, Russia’s First TV Channel screened Voloshin’s Olympius Inferno, a melodrama-cum-action about Georgia’s attack on Ossetia dubbed by many critics, such as Mkheidze and Kuvshinova, a state-commissioned “agit-prop” film. His next project, I Am,competed at Kinotavr 2009, where the film’s director of photography Dmitrii Iashonkov received an award for Best Cinematography. The film continues to generate controversy: “the best film of the year or the shame of Russian cinematography?” (Mkheidze and Kuvshinova) Continue reading
Winner of 2010 Golden Mask for Best Russian Theatre Performance.
Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow
Director: Rimas Tuminas
Composer: Faustas Latenas
Set designer: Adomas Yacovskis
Rimas Tuminas’s production was enthusiastically greeted by Moscow critics – not only for its undoubted merits but also because Uncle Vanya gave a positive response to the ‘accursed question’: is it possible at all to breathe life into a half-dead academic theatre today? Yes, it’s possible, answers the Vakhtangov Theatre but only in case there is a powerful director that is able to sweep his actors along with him. In Uncle Vanya there are a lot of witty solutions and paradoxical psychological moves. Rimas Tuminas seems to reflect Chekhov’s ‘scenes of rural life’ in secret false mirrors of otherness, and for this reason his performance turned out to be darkly eccentric. And you ask yourself: is it really that those on the stage are not ghosts of the country seat? Continue reading
The film represents life in a godforsaken Russian village. The only way to reach the mainland is to cross the lake by boat and a postman became the only connection with the outside world. A reserved community has been set up here. Despite the modern technologies and a spaceport nearby the people of the village live the way they would in the Neolithic Era. There is neither government nor social services or jobs. The postman’s beloved woman escapes the village life and moves to the city. Postman’s outboard engine gets stolen and he can no longer deliver mail. His normal pattern of life is disrupted. The postman makes a decision to leave for the city too but returns before long with no certain reason. The script is based on real characters’ stories. People from the village play their own parts in the film. The search for the protagonist lasted for over a year. Continue reading
Kukolka” tells the story of a young Russian gymnastics star who is forced to return to the life of an ordinary teenage girl after an injury prevents her from competing. As the film unfolds, the audience is drawn into the damaged psyche of the girl and the world that shaped her. The story is dark, intense, and ultimately disquieting; it draws you in, horrifies you, and keeps you thinking long after the superb finale. A film that is difficult to forget. Continue reading