Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Mikhail Kalatozishvili: Wild Field - Дикое Поле (2008)

Director: Mikhail Kalatozishvili
Actors: Oleg Dolin, Daniela Stoyanovich, Yuri Stepanov, Roman Madyanov, Alexandr Korshunov, Irina Butanayeva

Wild Field (2008)

Wild Field is a quiet film, shot amongst the greenish-brown rolling hills of the Kazakh steppe where, in a former hospital lost in the middle of nowhere, there lives a young handsome man, the regional doctor. A man of very few words, the doctor, Dmitrii Vasil'evich Morozov, or Mitia (Oleg Dolin), weathers his days collecting herbs, reading, and treating as best as he can his occasional patients, substituting the endemic lack of medications and facilities with ingenuity and compassion, outlining in few broad strokes a rather bleak picture of life on the social, geographical and historical margins. This is not surprising since the script, religiously followed by director Mikhail Kalatozishvili [1] was written by the connoisseurs of the Soviet okraina (outskirts), the late Aleksei Samoriadov (1962-94) and Petr Lutsik (1960-2000), who penned the scripts for some of the most unusual Russian films from the 1990s, including Diuba-Diuba (1993, dir. Aleksandr Khvan), Children of Iron Gods (Deti chugunnykh bogov, 1993, dir. Tamás Tóth), Limita (1994, dir. Denis Evstigneev), Outskirts (Okraina, 1998, dir. Petr Lutsik). Their high-strung metaphorical style is marked by the tragi-comical approach to fundamental questions of post-Soviet existence, where satirical, even grotesque profanization of official constructs and their pundits, is elegantly countered by subtle sacralization of ordinary folks and their natural wisdom.

In the tradition of Children of Iron Gods and Outskirts, Wild Field uses peculiar spaces and the vagueness of time to set poignantly realistic portrayals of people and lives in the high relief of poetic allegory. As in Children of Iron Gods, the absence of any and all official authority, the sporadic references to an unidentified, but complete political and economic breakdown in the past, and anticipation of a looming disaster in the future places the narrative outside history, in the dystopian realm of universal survivalist mythology. Left to their own devices, the characters are cast in situations alternating between the allegoric and the purely anecdotal, borrowed from Russian folklore, urban myths, and literature. The sparse but witty verbal exchanges balance between worn-out colloquial clichés and aphoristic wisdom.

Fleeting, mostly ironic references to vestiges of power like the Kremlin, Moscow, American Humanitarian Aid, and other scarce time indicators—Mitia's white jeans and the nature of the physical and psychological ailments he is confronted with—loosely anchors the story into the past two decades. The extant privation and tangible lawlessness, with all the ensuing consequences, is a sad reminder that those are still topical, in spite of the fact that the script is more than fifteen years old... Indeed, a radio announcement towards the end of the film places the events in August 2007 by playing pieces that were launched by the Americans into space precisely thirty years ago as ‘Earth symbolic musical messages'. The concrete severity of time and its problems are, however, tampered by the mystique of the open vistas and the elegiac pathos of a story that gradually grips our attention and our emotions…

Wild Field is divided into eleven segments: Prologue, Epilogue and nine Episodes, separated by Interludes, with each segment introducing a new situation and new “contrasting characters,” equally effective in revealing “the main action in different ways,” since their “‘disagreements” bring dramatic tension to the “all the Episodes” (Fergusson, 23). Therefore the careful selection of actors for contrasting characters is of fundamental importance here, because it is through them that Mitia's character—predicated on his “existence in and through” the main action, and not on initiating it—is revealed (Neale, 258). ...
Reviewed by Christina Stojanova© 2008 in KinoKultura

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