Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Aleksey Balabanov: Me Too - Я тоже хочу (2012)

I want (2012)

Director: Aleksey Balabanov
Writer: Aleksey Balabanov
Stars: Oleg Garkusha, Yuriy Matveev, Aleksandr Mosin

On the set of "I want"

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?

Я тоже хочу (2012)

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.

Reviewed by Irina Anisimova © 2013 in KinoKultura

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