Thursday, 16 August 2012

Aleksei Balabanov: I Also Want It - Я тоже хочу (2012)

Director: Aleksei Balabanov 
Writer: Aleksei Balabanov 
Cast: Oleg Garkusha , Alexander Mosin , Yury Matveyev , Alice Shitikova , Alexei Balabanov , Peter Balabanov (II)

Awards :

Press award Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Anapa (Russia), 2012
Best Cinematography Aleksandr SIMONOV , Film Festival of CIS countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia "Kinoshock", Anapa (Russia), 2012
Award of Young critics "Golos" Annual award of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, Moscow (Russia), 2012

Aleksei Balabanov described his new film, Me Too, as his most personal film. Can we then interpret this film as Balabanov’s statement of his religious views and of the coming end of the world?[1] With its allegorical elements and religious symbolism, can we call this film an expression of a “new sincerity” in contemporary Russian culture?[2] The film certainly gestures towards the transcendental. In its interest in existential questions and use of the fantastic, Me Too shares thematic similarity with Andrei Tarkovskii’s Stalker (1979).[3] Yet do the film’s message and style suggest the timeless and the eternal? Does Balabanov’s fourteenth film significantly differ from his other ironic and postmodernist works?

Me Too begins in a way not unusual for a Balabanov film, when one of the characters, the bandit (Aleksandr Mosin) kills four of his adversaries. However, the film’s plot moves into a different register when its protagonist enters a sauna. The bandit tells his friend, the musician (Oleg Garkusha), a tale about “the bell tower of happiness (kolokol’nia schast’ia).” The bandit himself learned the story from his confessor, Father Rafail. Located somewhere between St. Petersburg and Uglich, the mysterious bell tower is surrounded by something similar to Tarkovskii’s Zone, in that after a strong pulse of electromagnetic radiation this place fell into a nuclear winter, where most people die because of high radiation. However, the bell tower is also a place of rapture, where the chosen are taken to happiness. The friends decide to go to this place of no return. On their way, they rescue the bandit’s friend, whom they call Matvei (Iurii Matveev), from a rehabilitation center. Matvei decides to pick up his elderly father (Viktor Gorbunov). On their way to the bell tower, they also give a ride to Liuba, a prostitute and a former Philosophy student (Alisa Shitikova), and, finally, to a boy-prophet (played by Balabanov’s son Petr), who can predict the future and knows exactly who will be “taken” by the bell tower.

Emphasizing the new quality of his film, Balabanov described Me Too as belonging to a “completely new genre” (ITAR-TASS 2012) At the film’s premier at the 69th Venice Festival, Balabanov characterized the genre of the film as “fantastic realism” (Kartsev 2012). According to the interview, the director does not mean this new genre to be simply a combination of realistic and fantastic details, but rather a kind of documentary style. All roles in the film are played by non-professional actors. Of course, Balabanov used non-professional actors in his earlier films. For example, the cast of Stoker for the most part consisted of actors with no formal training. However, in Me Too, this quality of Balabanov’s films is taken to a new level. Thus, the actors’ roles correspond to their activities in real life, Balabanov plays a director and the rock musician Oleg Garkusha plays a rock musician. Balabanov explained that everybody plays themselves, drawing on their personal experiences. Similarly, the dialogue was largely suggested by the actors themselves, where even the smallest of anecdotes told during the film supposedly happened in real life. Similarly, the film’s director of photography, Aleksandr Simonov, stated in an interview that most of the film was shot in a documentary style (Shavlovskii 13 Dec. 2012).[4]

Read more in KinoKultura

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