Midnight, Moscow. Three mysterious strangers gather at a seedy bar and spin stories about themselves that are so bizarre they cannot be true. The outlandish stories prompt even stranger questions. Why do humans strive to clone other people, if a new loved one cannot substitute one who’s dead? Where is the border between life and death, and how high is man allowed to raise the curtain to look over to the other side? Is science in fact a form of contemporary magic? These curious people, these strange questions, this bizarre night are only the beginning. They are only the start to the film, the most surreal story of all.
Director Ilia Khrzhanovsky’s audacious and provocative debut film is a startling and idiosyncratic creative vision of contemporary Russia. The strangers’ extraordinary stories form the background for one of the most unique journeys in contemporary cinema, a woman’s strange trip to a funeral in the Russian countryside to visit a village consumed by mourning, obsessed with strange rituals and crafts. What if you make a mask of a real person and then burn it in a macabre fire ritual? Is there a connection between these primeval superstitions and modern science? Between this unreal village and the strangers in the dark city bar? Is there a link between the past and the present? Can both these worlds of mystical shamanism and scientific modernity really co-exist in contemporary Russia? These worlds are so disparate that Khrzhanovsky broke the rules of accepted cinematic language and used two different editing rhythms, and two divergent concepts for both sound and visuals. Yet, a closer look reveals that these two worlds may be but clones of each other, reverse reflections, like positive and negative film, or like a mirror that reflects the past in the present…
Ilya Andreevich Khrzhanovsky (Russian: Илья́ Андре́евич Хржановский; born August 11, 1975 in Moscow, Soviet Union) is a Russian film director. He is the son of Andrei Khrzhanovsky (b. 1939), one of the top Russian animation directors, and grandson of actor Yury Khrzhanovsky (1905—1987).
Khrzhanovsky is best known for directing the film 4, which earned him several awards including a Golden Orange for Best Director at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in Turkey and a Golden Cactus and Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands.
Educated at the Bonn Academy of Arts (1992–1993) and the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (1998) (VGIK), Khrzhanovsky’s directorial debut was the production of “That Which I Feel” (Russian: «То, что чувствую») at the Kukart Festival at Peterhof in 1997. After a few years working in commercial advertising, he returned to artistic directing. His 2005 film 4 was his first feature film, but he had made… read more
Somewhere in the midst of Sweet Movie and Red Desert. Not for everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the slow beginning.
Also: Dennis Lim on An Injury to One, Adrian Martin on sadness and Philip French on Saul Bass.
I feel lucky to have found this movie. It’s like buried treasure. The movie was hypnotic and stylish and didn’t add up to beans but it kept me watching as hot as it is here in LA.
The thing… read review