Archive for November 24, 2022

Effigies

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2022 by dcairns

Russian gloom — I’m enjoying, if that’s the word, Adam Curtis’ Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone, on the BBC iPlayer, his doc series culled from hundreds of hours of BBC footage of the Soviet Union’s decline. I can remember some of these scenes from their original broadcast. Cinephiles may note the name of Pawel Pawlikowski, one of the original documentary shooters who captured the distressing scenes.

Above left, Boris Yeltsin becomes an effigy (never a good sign) and on the right, Hitler does the same in COME AND SEE, which I screened for students — a Soviet film from the beginning of Curtis’ period of study.

The screening went well — I tried to warn students about what they were in for, including the death of a cow onscreen, but then a few arrived late so were plunged into hell with no warning.

I was particularly struck this time by how the film LOOKS YOU IN THE EYE — so many characters embarrass us with their frank, and horrified stares, direct into the lens, a technique allied perhaps to the way the film has its hero (the remarkable Aleksei Kravchenko) co-opted into a group photograph at the start and finish, once with Russian comrades, and then with Nazi captors.

With its immersive Steadicam shots and alarming, deafening sound design, this is one of the most traumatic films I know, but along with horror there’s a kind of awe which, for me anyway, makes it not depressing but strangely wondrous, if not uplifting. My students seemed impressed, one thanked me personally for showing it, and said she really appreciated the use of Mozart’s Requiem Mass at the end — which can perhaps be looked upon as Klimov’s aftercare for his gobsmacked audience.