Friday, 31 May 2013
Konstantin Lopushansky: The Role - Роль (2013)
Director: Konstantin Lopushansky
Starring: Anastasia Sheveleva , Maxim Sukhanov , Leonid Brain , Maria Yarvenhelmi
"The Role" is about a brilliant actor in revolutionary Russia who takes on the greatest role of his life -- the role of another man. Influenced by the ideas of symbolism and the Silver Age, he decides to slip into the life of his doppelganger – a revolutionary leader in the new Soviet Russia. First intrigued, then obsessed, he flings himself into the role and lives it to the hilt… even when the play of the life he is writing heads towards a tragic finale. Based on true incidents in the lives of Russia’s symbolists, this gripping film explores how far one man will go for the role of a lifetime.
In one of the opening scenes of Konstantin Lopushanskii’s The Role, a Finnish psychoanalyst discusses his patient, the émigré Russian actor Nikolai Evlakhov, with the actor’s wife. The doctor concludes that he cannot understand what motivates Russians. It’s as if, he muses, they all live as though they are characters in a Dostoevskii novel. Lopushanskii’s film is framed around this diagnosis, offering what the critic Elena D’iakova has called “a master class in the Russian Revolution” (D’iakova 2013).
The Role debuted at the 35th Moscow International Film Festival and created a minor stir among critics when it failed to take home any awards, particularly for Best Actor. Writing in Sobesednik, the writer Dmitrii Bykov opined that the festival’s jury got things wrong by not rewarding Maksim Sukhanov’s performance because they did not want to be reminded that movies can be art (Bykov 2013). It is not hard to understand why Bykov and others cried foul. Lopushanskii’s Role is a fascinating film about acting, an intriguing statement about the boundaries between life and art in Russian culture, and even a profound meditation on the 1917 Revolution and subsequent Civil War.
The film tells the fictional story of Nikolai Evlakhov (played by Maksim Sukhanov), a great Silver Age actor who fled from the Bolsheviks and who settled in Vyborg, Finland. By 1923, when the film opens, Evlakhov is restless and, as his wife worries, possibly unhinged. The actor has turned down a variety of roles, refused to meet with foreign backers, and is instead preoccupied with a new project: the attempt to embody Nikolai Evreinov’s declaration that every actor should make a theater out of life. Evlakhov has become obsessed with the legendary Red Army commander, Ignat Plotnikov, with whom he bears a remarkable resemblance. The actor has purchased Plotnikov’s archive and smuggled it across the border. He has studied the life contained within it extensively and has hatched a plan to return to his homeland to “play” a resurrected Plotnikov. He desires, as one Russian critic noted, to transform himself from a decadent aesthetic to an ascetic revolutionary (Arsen’ev 2013).
Read more >>