Stars:Dana Agisheva, Aleksandr Plaksin, Vladimir Ilin
A wintry landscape. The voice of a young man tells the story of an accident, during which he—aged seven—was rescued from the river by his father, while his mother and sister drowned. At the same time, an old woman tells a story about her dog and its death. The two narratives overlap and often sound simultaneously. Neither of the speakers is present in the frame. As Svetlana Proskurina seems to be telling one story on-screen, she cedes the voice-over narrative to her sound director, Vladimir Persov, known for his year-long work with Aleksandr Sokurov.
The discrepancy between sound and image announced in these first few minutes of Remote Access permeates the entire film, and it is never resolved—in the sense of achieving harmony. The reason for the dislocation of the disembodied voices and speechless images emerges only gradually in the film. At a later point, an old woman tries to get into a car, just to sit for a moment. The car she chooses is Sergei’s, whose voice-over told the story of his mother and sister drowning, and who is waiting for his friend. The woman continues the story narrated by her voice-over at the beginning. Her story about losing her dog is audibly and visually tangential to Sergei’s words and images, and when their paths cross they have nothing in common. The woman disappears; Proskurina continues to explore Sergei’s childhood trauma.
Proskurina’s film posses an extremely fragile and subtle structure, which is not viewer-friendly by any means. The film holds diametrically opposed elements in suspense: it moves constantly from winter to summer (partly because it was shot in different seasons); it juxtaposes water (rain, river, puddles) and fire (heat, sun, the explosion); and it criss-crosses between the present and the past. The seasons, the temperature, and time acquire symbolic significance: the past is associated with a frozen state (although the accident happened in the summer) and the image of water—swirling in a vortex, streaming from a lock, and welling into the river—all signal flux rather than stasis. Water gives and takes life; it cools and chills. The ambiguity of the symbols remains carefully unresolved.
On the level of plot, the film explores the relationship between an adult couple, Vera (Elena Rufanova) and Timofei (Vladimir Il'in), and between two teenagers, Vera’s daughter Zhenia (Dana Agisheva) and the young traumatised Sergei (Aleksandr Plaksin). Vera’s relationships with her husband and her daughter are not easy: Timofei is a businessman who loves her, but has a demanding job; Zhenia is a “difficult child” at a “difficult age,” who suffers from asthma and is absorbed with herself, even as she tries to find something useful to do with her life. To this end she starts work for a telephone sex agency, where she receives a call from Sergei, with whom she develops a virtual relationship over the phone. Sergei lives with his friend Igor', whom he helps with an illegal deal; Sergei dies when Igor'’s car explodes after an explosive has been planted by his business rivals.
Reviewed by Birgit Beumers©2005 in KinoKultura