Color, 100 min
Russian with English subtitles
Direction and script: Anna Melikian
Cinematography: Oleg Lukichev
Production design: Ul'iana Riabova
Music: Aleksei Aigi
With: Gosha Kutsenko, Nana Kiknadze, Artur Smol'ianinov, Evgeniia Dobrovol'skaia, Elena Morozova, Nadia Kamenkovich, Iana Esipovich
Production: Central Partnership; Slon Studio, with support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
Everyone tries to run away to search for a better life, to run away from people who surround you, from the environment you live in and in the end from yourself. The famous and unbeatable boxer Boris is doing just that. He just took a train to an unknown destination. When he wakes up in the early morning, through the fog he sees the neon letters "MARS", the name of the station and the little town, where everyone works at a factory for stuffed animals. Boris will only spend one day in the town but they will forever change the life of its inhabitants.
A debut film, especially in a film industry that is trying to reinvent itself, makes the viewer wary of derivative style and laboured plot. Anna Melikian’s feature debut Mars may have speckles of both, but it also possesses the lightness and love of the medium that are rare in Russian cinema today. Financed by one of Russia's largest distribution companies, Central Partnership, Mars is playfully romantic. The film has a commendably simple plot, which seems to have been borrowed from Lermontov’s “Taman'”: a jaded visitor from the “capitals” comes and leaves, disrupting “the peaceful life” of a Crimean town.
In Mars, a boxer from Moscow, Boris (Gosha Kutsenko), is on the run from his career and his mobster boss. As Boris emerges from under his hang-over and looks out the train car window, he comes face to face with supersized animals peeking in. Only gradually does the shocked hero realize that the plush toys are peddled by the town’s inhabitants, whose salary is paid in this “soft currency.” In the glory days of socialism, the provincial town of Marks was named after the author of the “Communist Manifesto,” but now it is missing the letter “k” on the train station logo. The Mar(k)s pun is essential for the film’s style, which shifts between absurd comedy and melodrama, between Karen Shakhnazarov’s City Zero (1989) and the colorful fantasies of Amélie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001). ...
Reviewed by Elena Prokhorova©2005 in KinoKultura