Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sergei Loznitsa: In The Fog - В тумане (2012)


Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Writers: Vasili Bykov (novel), Sergei Loznitsa (adaptation)
Stars: Vladimir Svirskiy, Vladislav Abashin, Sergei Kolesov

German-occupied Belarus, circa 1942. Four railway workers are accused of sabotaging the tracks. Three are hanged; one is released to his family. Sushchenia, the freed man, finds his liberty illusory. His neighbors despise him as a supposed collaborator; even his beloved wife Anelia thinks her life would have been better had he joined his comrades on the gallows. At least he would be remembered as a hero. Two partisans, Burov and Voitik, come to the Sushchenia home to exact retribution for the unlucky man’s alleged crime. The three go off into the forest, Sushchenia with shovel in hand. After he has dug his own grave, Sushchenia faces Burov, a childhood friend, to be shot. Burov hesitates. In that second, native polizei come upon them, and it is Burov who is shot, while Sushchenia makes a getaway. But Sushchenia returns to help the wounded Burov. While Voitik is away looking for a wagon to transport Burov, Burov dies, yet Sushchenia doggedly stays beside him, to Voitik’s astonishment. Carrying Burov’s body on his back like a cross, Sushchenia and Voitik attempt to reach the partisan unit, when polizei ambush them. Voitik is killed. Alone and in despair over his fate, Sushchenia commits suicide.
Reviewed by Denise J. Youngblood © 2013 in KinoKultura

The talent: Amid a sea of unfamiliar actors -- some of them Russian workhorses, but many of them first-timers -- two names stand out, though both of them are in supporting roles. Romanian actor Vlad Ivanov made a striking impression (and scooped an LA Critics' award) as the surly abortionist in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"; veteran Russian actress Nadezhda Markina's stunning turn in the title role of "Elena" earned a European Film Award nod last year, and will hit US screens next week.

As on his last film (and first narrative feature) "My Joy," Loznitsa wrote the script, while that film's editor Danielius Kokanauskis, production designer Kirill Shuvalov and cinematographer Oleg Mutu are all on board. Mutu, in particular, is a name to note: he's been a key figure in the recent Romanian new wave, having shot "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (which he also produced) and "Tales From the Golden Age." This is one of two Competition credits for him this year: he also lensed Cristian Mungiu's latest, "Beyond the Hills."

The pitch: Two years ago, celebrated documentarian Loznitsa's fiction debut "My Joy" proved one of the delayed critical successes of the lineup: consensus was slow to emerge, and no prizes were forthcoming, but a number of estimable English-speaking eventually latched onto his brooding, free-form vision of human corruption and barbarism in contemporary Russia. International distributors didn't rush to it (it finally hit US screens last autumn), while the Russian media accused it of Russophobia. His follow-up sounds, on paper, an easier sell. Picking up on the World War II flashbacks of his last film, "In the Fog" is a full-scale WWII drama set in the German-occupied Western frontier of the USSR. After a train is derailed by resistance fighter, innocent rail worker Sushenya is arrested by German officers, only to be set free -- prompting suspicions of treason among his compatriots. Sounds robustly classical enough, with arthouse-crossover potential -- but perhaps Loznitsa has a more radical treatment up his sleeve.

More here.

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