The 11 best Russian films of the year
This independent film project, a screen adaptation of Victor Pelevin’s novel of the same name, was directed by Victor Ginzburg.
Synopsis: Vavilen Tatarsky works at an ad agency responsible for promoting Western brands. His job is to adapt the ads for the “Russian mentality.”
The director says: “Basically, this story has no plot in the classic sense, everything is tied to the dynamics, the force of attraction and the ‘Oh no!’ philosophical idea. I am even glad that critics are taking it as a verbatim adaptation––it turns out that I was able to convey the spirit and essence of the work to the viewer.” (Victor Ginzburg)
According to critics, this drama directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev (“The Return,” “The Banishment”) is in the tradition of Andrei Tarkovsky’s existential cinema. The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 64th Cannes Film festival.
Synopsis: Wealthy elderly businessman Vladimir has formally married his nurse, Elena, after nearly eight years of living together. Both have children from previous marriages. Bickering over Vladimir’s will gives Elena the idea of poisoning her husband.
The director says: “When the lights go out, to the average person it’s just fuses burning out, but to Elena, it’s the bell tolling for her. Now she is face to face with her own hell in her soul.” (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
Elena. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
A film by Alexander Sokurov, who the European Film Academy included in its list of the 100 best directors of world cinema. “Faust” received the Golden Lion at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. The film will be released in Russia in late January 2012.
Synopsis: This is the final work in Sokurov’s four-part series on power, which includes “Moloch,” “Taurus,” and “The Sun.” The film is based on the first part of Goethe’s tragedy, “Faust.” To create the atmosphere of 18th century Germany, a whole city was built for the film outside of Prague.
The director says: “Faust was a man who really once existed. Hitler was a real-life person. Lenin was a real-life person. Hirohito was a real-life person. I’m just looking at them as human beings.” (Alexander Sokurov)
Faust. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
This musical comedy was made by creative association SVOI 2000 and directed by Sergei Loban. The film won a special jury prize, the Silver St. George, at the 33rd Moscow International Film Festival, and was singled out for special commendation by jury chair Geraldine Chaplin. The film will open in limited release in January 2012.
Synopsis: The film consists of four intersecting stories of travels to the sea. Each of the parts has its own theme: love, friendship, respect, and cooperation. In related scenes, the characters of each of the short stories arrive in a seaside town and experience turning points in their lives.
The director says: “As in life, in which everyone sees himself as the center of his own drama, the characters in “Chapiteau” are the main characters of their own stories, while in other people’s stories they are often barely noticeable characters. The stories are full of tragic pathos––but it is exactly when each person is going through a personal drama that things look funny from the other side.” (Sergei Loban)
Chapiteau Show. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
Alexander Mindadze’s film received the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Film Festival.
Synopsis: This is the story of one day in the life of Valery Kabysh, a minor party official in the city of Pripyat. It happens to be the day of the Chernobyl explosion. When Valery learns of the explosion, he tries to escape, taking his former lover with him.
The director says: “This film about the Chernobyl disaster is a metaphor for Russian life, and life more generally, in an international understanding. Above all, I was interested in how people don’t flee from disaster but rather the opposite: they cannot move, they live unthinkingly.” (Alexander Mindadze)
Innocent Saturday . Source: Kinopoisk.ru
Homeland or Death
Vitaly Mansky’s documentary represents a shift toward the “new real movie.”
Synopsis: This film chronicles the lives of several Cuban families. For more than 50 years, the nation has been living by the motto of the victorious revolution, “Homeland or Death,” and this slogan presents a real dilemma for several generations of Cubans.
The director says: “What comes to mind at the mention of Cuba? Most likely, a convertible full of happy blond boys in colorful shirts… the vast ocean is reflected in their eyes. But of all of the above, in reality only the vast ocean exists, cutting off the island from the rest of the world.” (Vitaly Mansky)
Homeleand and Death. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
The Master and Margarita
Yuri Kara’s screen adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel was filmed in 1994, but didn’t see the light of day until 2011 due to disagreements between the director and producers.
Synopsis: The devil comes to 1930s Moscow.
The director says: “Our film is closer to it [Bulgakov’s novel] aesthetically than modern cinema with its computer graphics.” (Yuri Kara)
Master and Margarita. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
The directorial debut of U.S.-based Russian director Angelina Nikonova, this film won many awards on its impressive festival tour from Venice to Thessaloniki.
Synopsis: Marina, an attractive, upper-crust social worker, one day finds herself alone on the outskirts of Rostov. She is raped by three traffic police officers and she decides to take revenge on one of them, until she falls in love with him.
The director says: “For me and (lead actress) Olga Dykhovichnaya, “Twilight Portrait” was a huge challenge. I had to combine the functions of executive producer, assistant director, production manager, location manager, art director, makeup artist.” (Angelina Nikonova)
Twilight Portrait. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
Nikolai Khomeriki’s drama was part of the main competition at this year’s 33rd annual Moscow International Film Festival.
Synopsis: Shot on black-and-white film, the movie tells the story of 23-year-old Kostya, an assistant subway engineer, who is informed by a doctor that he has heart disease and is in danger of dying at any moment.
The director says: “Attaining the kind of truth that exists in a documentary film is beyond art. That’s why I sometimes mix real people with actors. And I love what I call ‘emotional dramaturgy,’ when you don’t edit the plot.” (Nikolai Khomeriki)
Heart's boomerang. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
This is the most recent film by 77-year-old director Otar Iosseliani, who was exiled from the Soviet Union to France in the early 1980s.
Synopsis: Nikolai, a director resembling a young Iosseliani, lives in his ideal of uncompromising art, and is torn between bureaucrats and censors of all kinds. In the end, he decides to leave the country. Once in Paris, he discovers that local producers are no better than party officials, and sometimes even act in a much more authoritarian way.
The director says: “This is a story about the need to stay true to yourself despite everything around you and the obstacles encountered along the way.” (Otar Iosseliani)
Chantrapas. Source: Kinopoisk.ru
Vysotsky: Thanks For Being Alive
Pyotr Buslov’s film about nationally beloved bard and actor Vladimir Vysotsky was filmed without identifying the lead actor, causing buzz about the film to build prior to its release.
This movie is the latest tribute to the artist. It was realesed on Dec. 1. Produced by Konstantin Ernst and Anatoly Maximov, it took almost five years and $13 million to make. Screenwriter Nikita Vysotsky, who is also Vysotsky’s son, emphasized at a press conference that, although based on real-life events, this is a fictional film featuring a dramatic time in Vladimir Vysotsky's life: His tour in Uzbekistan in 1979 when he had a near-death experience. He died almost a year to the day later.
The footage from "Vysotsky" movie. Source: Kinopoisk.ru