DISCUSSING RUSSIAN NEW WAVE: LEVIATHAN AND THE FOOL

Written by Augustine

If someone starts talking with me about cinema they will immediately realize that:

a. I love movies which are socially informed and even allegorical

b. I do prefer the non-English-language ones since they seem to appeal more to my social justice self and my aesthetic criteria as well.

Russian New Wave cinema has been praised by a lot of critics for its extreme realism and political/social issues it brings on the surface. Forget the classics of the Soviet-era like Menshov’s Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1980) or Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972); contemporary Russian movies like Leviathan (2014) and The Fool (2014) unveil the faults of today’s Russia, the ills of capitalism and of a “democratic” reign which can be paralleled in many ways to past authoritative regimes.

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  1. Leviathan (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)

I think I can predict if I will fall for a movie or not from the first fifteen or so minutes watching it, or even if a movie is going to make me proud for living and breathing in the 21st century and witnessing miracles in the art of cinema, miracles by non-English-speaking directors.

Having competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and having won the award of the Best Screenplay in the festival as well as that of the Best Foreign Language Film at the 72nd Globe Awards, Leviathan follows Kolya and his family and their desperate attempts to save the land on which their house is built from the mayor’s expropriation plots. The amazing shots of landscapes in this movie and the naturalist tone overshadowing the protagonists are perfectly tied in with the sociopolitical plot and a man’s attempts to save his dignity and his house. During the movie the viewer is bombarded with facts about modern Russia, for example the element of christianity is always there and prominent till the very end and it is ironically twisted by the hypocrisy of the authorities. Such issues are raised within such a dramatic storyline establishing this movie among the best ones of the 21st century.

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  1. The Fool (dir. Yuriy Bukov, 2014)

If the previous movie judged religion as an institution (among else), The Fool sheds some light on the internal affairs of a town mayor and her surrounding team. What would happen if a young plumber proves that a huge building in which almost eight hundred people reside was going to fall to the ground, a huge building which was never really renovated and restored despite its obsolete exterior and interior since some people appropriated portions of public money? A building which not only reeks of drugs and illness but also of domestic violence and gambling, of low-class people who are susceptible to the machinations of the upper-class against them – what would happen then? What would happen if the lives of these common people were at stake, but so would the lives and the money of the wealthy ones ruling them? Who would be saved and who wouldn’t? Can someone change the world having only faith in his idea? Can they change a world which is being shaped and reshaped to cater for the interests of those who control everything using money? The Fool raises these questions and explores the themes of corruption, ideology and power relations between the poor and the rich in a post-Soviet town. And the result is an exceptionally good film with a great soundtrack and storyline.

If you are interested in something new, alternative and by far unique then I urge you to watch these as well as other Russian New Wave movies (pretty soon I am going to make a list to help you even better!) Till then: До свидания!

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