Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Anna Melikyan: Star - Звезда (2014)

Звезда (2014)

Director: Anna Melikyan
Writers: Anna Melikyan, Andrey Migachev Cast: Tina Dalakishvili, Severija Janusauskaite, Pavel Tabakov, Andrey Smolyakov, Juozas Budraitis, Alexander Shein, Gosha Kutsenko

Awards : Best directing Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014
Best actress Severija Janushauskaite, Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Sochi (Russia), 2014

Звезда (2014)

The lives of three people collide and fancifully intertwine, closely linking their fates. A 15-year-old teenager, misunderstood by the world; his worldly and haughty young stepmother who is capable of true feelings and genuine attachment only on the verge of death; and the debuting actress who is naturally untalented, but has a passionate love for life. This is a tragicomedy about the inscrutability of love and destiny, about the vulnerability of our existence.

In her film The Star, the director Anna Melikian not only reflects on the existential dilemmas of the three protagonists—the 15-year old teenager Kostia (Pavel Tabakov), his striking future step-mother Rita (Janušauškaite), and his love interest Masha (Dalakishvili)—but also issues a larger verdict on the hyper-materialist, superficial values of contemporary Russian society. In this society, where everything is subject to commodification, including one’s life and death, “the economic activity is barely there,” “ecology is destroyed,” and “the nuclear arsenal is ample.” Melikian maps her exposé of moral decay and thorn-ridden redemption onto the surreal, post-modern Muscovite landscape, collaged out of craggy terrain of construction sites, pristine modernist spaces of the wealthy, decrepit quarters of the poor and claustrophobic sets of decadent nightclubs. By making her protagonists confront death face-to-face against this dystopian urban background, Melikian attempts to delineate the defining terms of cultural heritage. She explores the issue through the symbolism of two opposed notions: depth and surface. In her film, cultural heritage epitomizes the sum total of meaningful, original “imprints” that individuals leave behind for posterity. Castigating the virtualized reality of the digital age, she valorizes the socio-cultural contributions of manual labor and validates the significance of intimate human touch—a vanishing phenomenon among atomized Russian citizens.

Melikian offers a story of mistaken identities that revolves around Kostia, the son of an oligarch, and Masha, an aspiring actress from the provinces. Masha attends numerous auditions where her ability to cry is valued as much as the shape of her legs. Already thin and tall, Masha wants to fit the industry-defined formula of beauty. She creates a “wish list” of physical alterations, which comprises surgery on her lips, breasts, legs, and ears. She works odd jobs to save enough money for these expensive plastic surgeries. Her corporeal transformations occur in parallel to her developing relationship with Kostia, whom she meets at a nightclub where she entertains the guests as a grotesque mermaid in an enormous water tank. Ashamed of his wealth, Kostia works as a day laborer at the nightclub instead of attending school. During her first rehearsal as mermaid, ignored by everyone else, Masha nearly drowns. Kostia witnesses Masha’s struggle and offers her his hand. The life-saving touch of his outstretched arm, bereft of materialistic motives, appears extraordinary amidst the self-absorbed, myopic society. Subsequently, Kostia introduces himself as a thief. At first slightly uncomfortable, Masha begins to accept the crumpled cash that Kostia transfers from his hands to hers.

Read more in KinoKultura

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