Stars:Aleksey Filimonov, Karolina Gruszka and Varvara Voetskova
In one of his texts written in October 2001, Ivan Vyrypaev promised: “A time will come when people will realize that the most important thing in any text is letters arranged in a proper way. It will come, this time. It will return; it already was here. The time will come when plots will die out, and narrators’ voices will fade away. And only letters will captivate the reader. For the reader reads with a single purpose: to recognize familiar signs. This time will come” (Vyrypaev, 37). It certainly did in Vyrypaev’s Kislorod, a seventy-five-minute long visual “album” that includes ten musical “tracks” (kompozitsii) and two bonuses.
Written originally as a play in 2002, Kislorod has become a symbol and symptom of a generation of Russian playwrights associated with the New Drama movement. Privileging a documentary approach, new drama texts are often rooted in interviews with real people (using the so-called verbatim method), and New Drama acting is often envisioned as a way of commenting on the plot rather as a way of impersonating it. First performed in Teatr.doc, Kislorod launched Vyrypaev’s career as an actor and playwright artist, and later as a filmmaker (his first film Euphoria was included in the program of the 2006 Venice film festival).
The cinematic version of the play was driven by a desire to move beyond a small circle of fans of the verbatim method (Zolotnikov). The requirements of the new medium and anticipated expectations of new audience clearly influenced the original text: the amount of obscene language was toned down, some original lines and themes were (unfortunately) cut out. In turn, the minimalist acting of the two narrators was interspersed with animation, documentary clips, and scenes shot in Damascus, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, London, Havana, Moscow, and Serpukhov. And yet, despite all these changes and additions, the textual nature of the film remains prominent: the opening titles of Kislorod present it as “a text of Ivan Vyrypaev.” What kind of text is it?
Visually, the film has a double structure. Its backbone is a series of monologues, in which two young actors, Aleksei Filimonov and Karolina Gruszka, narrate their parts in front of a microphone in a recording studio. Static and sometimes monochromatic, these monologues are interesting not visually but aurally. Structured as songs, the “lyrics” of these texts are composed of strongly rhythmic units, which are articulated with high speed and are accompanied by electronic music (the names of composers pop up on the screen at the beginning of each track). While not rhymed, the lyrics are metered, and the repetition of phrases and word combinations makes only more apparent that the sonic structure of this recitativo accompagnato is the main artistic device that brings visual fragments of the tracks together. ...