Monday, 26 March 2012

Lidia Bobrova: I Believe - Верую! (2009)

Directed by Lidiya Bobrova
Cast: Aleksander Aravushkin, Irina Osnovina, Sergey Amosov, Fedor Yasnikov, Aleksander Fedorov, Yury Zhigarkov

Based on the novels by Vasily Shukshin

Awards :
Audience Award Festival ''Cinema and literature'', Russia, 2010

Lidiia Bobrova has dedicated her professional career to films about the glubinka, the past and present rural Russia to which she was born and which continues to inspire her work. I Believe! is based on three stories by Vasilii Shukshin of the 1960s-70s,“Zaletnyi,” “Veruiu” and “Zabuksoval,” which the director-scriptwriter has integrated into an updated narrative of contemporary provincial Russia. Because of budget constraints, the film was shot in the Arkhangelsk region rather than the Altai and, unlike Bobrova’s previous film, Babusia (2003), employs professional actors in the lead roles.

Like Egor Prokudin, the uprooted peasant of Shukshin’s Red Guelderbush (Kalina krasnaia, 1973), Maksim Iarikov is a man in search of himself. This ordinary railroad worker who, like Tolstoi’s fateful peasant in Anna Karenina, bangs the iron wheels of train cars to check their soundness, is deeply tormented. His soul aches (“dusha bolit”) because he cannot find meaning in his life as he searches for something in which to believe. Overwhelmed by metaphysical doubts, Maksim goes on a binge which lands him in jail—and in comic trouble—when he claims to have invented a perpetual motion machine and then sold its blueprint to the Americans. Bailed out by his wife and sleeping it off, he hears his young son reciting a school assignment—Gogol’s famous apostrophe to the Russia of galloping steeds and troika at the end of Dead Souls, part one: “Ne tak li i ty, Rus’, chto boikaia, neobgonimaia troika nesesh’sia?” (“Rus’, in your headlong flight, are you not like a lively troika that none can overtake?”) Maksim suddenly realizes that the familiar troika is carrying none other than Chichikov, just as modern Russia rushes forward transporting crooks and scam artists. In desperation, he goes to visit a former priest who advises him simply to believe in life, convincing him (after a few drinks) to declare his faith in both the sacred and profane, by repeatedly shouting “I believe!”

Seven years pass, it is 2006 and the now abstemious Maksim becomes acquainted with Aleksandr, a terminally ill artist living out his last days in the village. The artist teaches Maksim to love God through the beauties of nature that surround them. Maksim’s exasperated wife, whose heft opposes Maksim’s preoccupation with “soul” by an excess of body, persuades the local policeman to threaten Aleksandr for leading Maksim to ignore his responsibilities at home. Aleksandr soon dies and Maksim blames his now repentant wife. He sits alienated from the dancing villagers celebrating his son’s wedding, but then realizes that he will finally find meaning in life through a podvig, the heroic religious feat of rebuilding the village church destroyed during the Soviet era. The film ends with Maksim’s son and daughter-in-law, standing among the church ruins, as the young woman reads an orthodox prayer asking God to let the Russian people know why he created them, to let them know his holy will. ...

Reviewed by Rimgaila Salys © 2011 in KinoKultura

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