Director: Roman Kachanov
Writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky (novel), Roman Kachanov,
Stars: Fyodor Bondarchuk, Ivan Okhlobystin,Anna Buklovskaya
The plot is set in modern Moscow, in the 1990s, with "New Russians", Hummer H1 jeeps, bribery, violence, truck fulls of tinned stew as a dowry, etc. ...
Although only 37 years old, Roman Kachanov already has had a long and varied career in advertising and as the screenwriter and director of numerous animated and feature films. The son of a well-known director of animated films, Roman Kachanov, Sr., and a graduate of Moscow’s VGIK, his reputation was established with the award-winning absurdist comedy about army life DMB [Demobbed] (2000). His long-time collaborator Ivan Okhlobystin (born 1966), another graduate of VGIK and one of the most colorful and controversial figures in contemporary Russian cinema, has written, directed, and acted in more than a dozen films since his directorial debut in Nonsense: A Tale of Nothing (1988, short). Down House, their hip-hop adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, was the major cinematic scandal of the 2001 season in Moscow.
The outlandish title, based on contemporary Russian slang for "idiot" (derived from "Down’s Syndrome") and English "house" or "house music," can be interpreted as "insane asylum" or "music for idiots." Despite uniformly savage reviews in both the popular and intellectual press (a selection from "the most scandalous reviews of Down House" can be read on Okhlobystin’s own web site), the film turned out to be quite popular with a young urban audience willing to laugh at one of the giants of 19th century Russian literature and a critical literary source of modern Russian messianism.
Placing their film in post-Soviet Moscow, Kachanov and Okhlobystin have updated the major characters and actions of Dostoevsky’s novel, while systematically travestying its serious religious and political themes with great doses of absurdism and crude physiological humor. Prince Myshkin (Fedor Bondarchuk), a computer programmer and lover of "house music," returns to his "historic homeland" after being "almost completely cured of a series of nervous illnesses" in the Swiss sanatorium of Dr. Schneider. He falls in with Rogozhin (Ivan Okhlobystin), a pistol-packing new Russian millionaire, a former komsomolka and femme fatale, Nastasya Filippovna (Anna Bulovskaia), the Ivolgins, Epanchins, and other minor characters familiar from the novel. Nastasya Filippovna must choose between three suitors, Ganya, Myshkin, and Rogozhin, while Myshkin is caught in a triangle of his own between Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya Epanshina. The film concludes with Rogozhin’s murder of Nastasya Filipovna and the Prince’s relapse into madness. While preserving the bare essentials of Dostoevsky’s plot, Kachanov and Okhlobystin exaggerate the shocking violence and sexual frankness of the original by focusing on sexual dysfunction, bodily functions, masturbation, drug abuse, child abuse, murder, and cannibalism. Aglaya Epanchina (Elena Kotel'nikova) is a punk nymphomaniac, Ferdyshchenko (Aleksandr Bashirov) farts constantly and audibly, General Epanchin (Yuzas Budraitis) tempts Ganya (Mikhail Vladimirov) with railroad cars of Spam, Rogozhin and Myshkin dine on the flesh of the murdered Nastasya Filoppovna, and Myshkin takes a doggy bag home for Ganya. Indeed, Down House begs to be read as a post-Bakhtinian carnivalesque version of The Idiot. ...
Reviewed by Anthony Anemone in KinoKultura