Friday, 13 January 2012

Nikolai Khomeriki: Heart's Boomerang - Сердца бумеранг (2011)

Director: Nikolay Khomeriki
Cast: Alexander Yatsenko, Claudia Korshunova, Natalia Batrak, Alexander Ilyin

Twenty-three-year-old Kostya works for the subway as a train driver’s assistant. One day he goes for a check-up, and the doctor diagnoses a serious heart condition and says that he has to radically change his lifestyle and his job. But Kostya decides not to tell anyone about his illness. Deep inside, however, he re-examines the life he has led until now, and realises that his mother is his only source of stability. He doesn’t really know how to relate to other people, nor does he know where his relationship with his girlfriend is going. The film is played out during the winter months, set in the suburbs of the Russian capital and within the city’s subway system. Cameraman Shandor Berkeshi (Koktebel, Free Floating) skillfully puts its fascinating allure to use in his black-and-white compositions. Hypnotic shots of the trains rumbling through the tunnels seem to reflect the mental state of a hero forced by necessity to take his life into his own hands. ...

One of the first shots of Heart’s Boomerang features an ultrasound image. The ultrasound, (over)used as a celebration of life and a symbol of new hope on the silver screen, turns out to be a harbinger of death in art-house director Nikolai Khomeriki’s existential drama. It reveals a fatal weakness in the heart of the protagonist Kostia (Aleksandr Iatsenko), a 23-year-old assistant to a metro train driver. Kostia leads a completely ordinary existence: he shares a Moscow flat with his single mother (Natal’ia Batrak), has a steady girlfriend (Klavdiia Korshunova), and occasionally goes out partying. He is also perfectly healthy—the doctor informs him—but he can die at any moment of a heart failure.

This is the setup for a narrative Khomeriki has described as being about “loneliness” and “the meaning of life” (Poliakova 2011). It is also a deeply personal project. In an interview, Khomeriki has shared that he grew up knowing that his mother was dying of cancer. After she passed away, the director shot The Two of Us (Vdvoem,2005), a short film about a mother’s last days spent with her son. Heart’s Boomerang was conceived as a retort, a “mirror image” of that narrative—hence the boomerang of the title (Poliakova 2011).

This mirror image is a distorted one, however. In the world of Heart’s Boomerang, there is no togetherness or shared grief. Kostia chooses not to tell his mother about his illness. In fact, he keeps the news from everyone in his life: his long-term girlfriend Ania, the train driver he works alongside every day, his friends. As a result, the majority of his social interactions are tinged with irony and marked by the viewer’s uncomfortable awareness of the pointlessness and relative unimportance—compared to the threat of certain death—of the mundane situations and discussions the protagonist is engaged in. For instance, the attempts of Kostia’s mother to pressure him into marrying Ania and having children sound tragic-comical; this commonplace episode becomes at once absurd and poignant due to the discrepancy between the mother’s expectations and the son’s uncertain future. Likewise, Ania’s melodramatic admittance that, after an argument, Kostia’s failure to pick up the phone caused her “heart to stop” is both a painful reminder of his condition and a comical display of inadvertent insensitivity. ... Reviewed by Mihaela Mihailova © 2012 in KinoKultura

Selected in the following festivals :
- International Human Rights Film Festival, Moscow (Russia), 2011
- Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), 2011
- Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF), Moscow (Russia), 2011
- International Film Festival : Pacific Meridians, Vladivostok (Russia), 2011
- FilmFestival Cottbus - Festival of East European Cinema, Cottbus (Germany), 2011
- Seville European Film Festival : SEFF, Seville (Spain), 2011
- Torino Film Festival, Turin (Italy), 2011
- Sputnik nad Polska, Warsaw (Poland), 2011

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