The latest film of the Russian master takes us to the early 1990s and the city of St.Petersburg, right before the disintegration of the Soviet imperium. The stoker writes his book, makes people’s houses warm and does not see strange things happening around him.
The stoker is a veteran of the Afghan war: a retired major and hero of the USSR who spends his life in an old boiler room, writing a book and shovelling coal into the boiler. Every now and then, an old veteran friend pays him a visit, to burn something other than coal. These things seem to be human bodies, but the stoker doesn’t seem to care. His friend tells him they were bad people. His beautiful daughter, who stays in her father’s flat, comes to the boiler room only to ask for money. The only people really interested in the stoker’s work and writings are two little girls who visit and ask curious questions. The boiler is a symbol present in all houses, and fire destroys everything in the end. Having made a film about the 1970s (Cargo 200), Alexei Balabanov this time evokes the atmosphere of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. He does so in a straightforward yet uncompromising and unsettling way, whereby gangland liquidations seem like the most common thing in the world. –IFFR
Aleksei Balabanov was born on February 25, 1959 in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In 1981 he graduated from Translation Faculty of Gorky Teachers’ Training University. From 1983 to 1987 Alexei worked as an assistant of a film director at Sverdlovsk film studio. Later Balabanov studied at the experimental course “Authors’ Cinema” of the High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors, graduating in 1990.
Balabanov started his creative career in “big cinema” in 1991 with directing his first full-length feature Shchastlivyye dni (Happy Days) after his own script. In the same year he became the co-author of the script Pogranichniy Conflict (Frontier Conflict) by the young film director Nadezhda Khvorova. In 1992 Aleksei Balabanov together with producers Sergei Selyanov and Vasily Grigor’ev established the STV Film Company, which later participated in creation of almost all of his films.
In 1994 the film director released Zamok (The Castle) after the famous novel by Frantz… read more