Friday, 11 April 2014
Eva Neymann: House with a Turret - Дом с башенкой (2012)
Director: Eva Neymann
Writers: Fridrikh Gorenshteyn (novel), Eva Neymann
Stars: Vitalina Bibliv, Albert Filozov, Yekaterina Golubeva
Friedrich Gorenstein’s semi-autobiographical story House with a Turret was first published in 1964. The author of many (mainly unfilmed) screenplays, he later collaborated with Tarkovsky on the script of Solaris. In her second feature based on Gorenstein’s work, Eva Neymann presents the war years through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy travelling home to Kiev with his mother in the early years of the Second World War. As in Gorenstein’s own experience, the mother tells him that, if anything should happen, he should find the street where they lived and search for the house with a turret. Strongly empathic, the film creates a sense of immediacy in his experience of the world and the people around him. Striking black-and-white photography (by Lithuanian cinematographer Rimvydas Leipus) achieves a convincing reconstruction both moving and poetic. Dimitry Kobetskoy, cast as the boy, was discovered in an orphanage in Odessa.
A child is traveling with his mother towards his grandfather, but their journey is stopped when the young woman dies of typhus in an unknown town, just as poor and in ruins as any other on the way. However, the boy is determined to go on, towards a destination he will probably never reach.
The first adaptation of the synonymous autobiographical novel by Friedrich Gorenstein, this project was previously considered by other directors, including Andrei Tarkovsky, who was a close friend of the author. When she got around to putting the story on screen herself, Eva Neymann seems to have chosen a style that very much reminds of Tarkovsky. The film is truly striking visually: shot in black and white, it shows picturesque depictions of snowy fields as well as dark hospital corridors. A lot of attention has been paid to costumes and scenography, making up for an accurate look at a past era from this point of view.
On the other hand, story-wise the film is in many ways like the train the little boy is on: it’s crammed with people and unsure as to whether and when any of them will make it to their destination. The fact that none of the characters has a name points out how they solely concentrate on themselves and they don’t even bother making acquaintance with each other. But this also contributes greatly to stereotypically depicted characters. There’s not much complexity: the good ones are good to the bone and the bad ones are plain vicious: they don’t care much, not even for an orphan boy traveling on his own. Situations and the way actors deliver the dialogue are consistent with this stereotypical way in which their characters are constructed.
“House with a turret” can be described more as a visual essay than as a film since its basis is not a narrative trail, but rather a sum of states and feelings that are triggered in the spectators. They all convey the idea of the lack of humanity in the harsh years of the war; but they do so in a straightforward manner, lacking subtlety and the type of refinement that characterizes the photography.
The film, in many ways, evokes a past time, but while this means dreamy cinematography and carefully put together scenography, on the other hand it implies type-characters and overly-emphasized acting.
By Mirona Nicola