Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mikhail Brashinsky: Black Ice - Гололед (2003)

Director: Mikhail Brashinsky
Writers: Konstantin Murzenko, Mikhail Brashinsky
Stars: Viktoriya Tolstoganova, Ilya Shakunov,Konstantin Yushkevich


 If Aleksandr Sokurov presented the longest tracking shot in the history of a cinema with his film Russian Ark, Mikhail Brashinskii's debut film Black Ice transforms Sokurov's record into the opposite. His 70-minute film contains no less than 1011 cuts, when the average for a 90-minute picture constitutes 600 cuts. Such analytical calculation of his own montage would probably be expected from a director, who previously worked as a film-critic. But this statistical evidence remains the only technical information in the press-release. Overall, Black Ice is very intelligent film, which investigates different aspects that hint at the search for a new cinema. Black Ice is far from examining the weather conditions in Moscow, but the emotional condition of contemporary Muscovites. Somewhat, the film is about the freezing of the feeling of love. The plot is not developed; in the film we see a man (he) and a woman (she) who, in fact, are neither connected nor familiar with each other; they casually met in hospital. "She" (Viktoria Tolstoganova) is a lawyer; she has left the husband, and sees another man, while her former husband (Egor Pazenko) still loves her. She does not see that she is in danger in connection with her plan to use a tape with illegally made recordings as compromising evidence in court. Or rather she appreciates this danger, but has not yet decided what to do, seeing neither the possible consequences, nor the significance of her own actions. Besides, she fails to realize the constancy of the love of her former husband. "He" (Il'ia Shakunov, an actor of the Petersburg TYuZ) is a gay translator who, after the random meeting with her, is pursued by her image which frequently pops up in front of him. As a consequence, his relationship with a young boy no longer satisfies him. Both he and she lose sight of the meaning of life, because of their own inability to see others and to see love, as perception relies on proximity instead of distance. In film there are numerous missed chances and possibilities, because people have lost the overall view and the capacity to look at things from a distance. The theme of vision and perception is emphasized in the film. Not only do the characters experience difficulties with vision (several layers of contact lenses, the use of an acid instead of a cleanser for lenses), but neither the viewer is allowed an overall perspective on the events. Brashinskii uses as a number of short close-ups, which are followed by a few wide angle shots, an approach which creates some degree of irritation for the spectator. The convulsive and jerky movements of the camera provoke a certain dizziness in the spectator, and the characters are even sick from the proximity of objects. The use of close-ups denies the possibilities of a surveying view and coincides with the director's desire not to tell a story.

 Reviewed by Birgit Beumers ©2003 in KinoKultura

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