Issue 58 (2017)

Boris Khlebnikov: Arrhythmia (Aritmiia, 2017)

reviewed by Alexandra Porshneva © 2017

In the era of transformation of historical dramas into fantasy and action films when the plot abounds with not many-sided varieties, but with primitive hooks from which it is not a sin to escape; at the time of the most hypocritical deceptions and every second incriminating “confession” it becomes necessary to find something real, to see something that will make the heart beat unevenly and breathe irregularly or even stop at all—a sincere statement about life.

aritmiaHow difficult it turns out to reflect calmly and soberly on what has so deeply and precisely pierced your mind and feelings. There is a gap of reality and sincerity in modern cinema where the stories are usually simplified and the film language is flattened. However, both of these phenomena are consequences of the atrophy of the senses, which is evident only when an understanding of healing pain (or pain that brings people together) comes. If this cocktail of diagnoses turns into an endless feeling of irregular breathing (narrative, acting, editing) then the pain is already emerging onto a new level of educating the senses. And it is encouraging when the “great propaganda tool” of cinema does not moralize, but analyzes: it lays on shelves all the “yes” and “no” in life, the “for” and “against” in art.

Boris Khlebnikov’s Arrhythmia, as well as A Long and Happy Life (Dolgaia i schastlivaia zhizn’, 2012), are about understanding, and about the alienation of modern man, about a kind of intolerance. At the same time the deep tragedy of the characters in Arrhythmia lies in the trivial drama of family relations. Khlebnikov’s film is a modern story about eternal choices, because there are no bad or good characters. The principle of morality in this film is a matter of choice for everybody. So, the truth becomes a cornerstone concept and a form-building element of the film. As we know, everyone has their own truth: Oleg’s truth is life-saving, sometimes even at the expense of others’ lives; Katia’s is an attempt to understand Oleg’s space by separating from him. The film’s truth is in the artistic approach: the documentary stylistics of the wandering camera, the almost natural lighting, the lack of accompanying music form the brush that creates this lively and sincere portrait of a man. The truth lies in the severity of social and moral conflicts, in their clash and in the absence of smoothed corners of urgent contemporary issues, which incidentally are shown very delicately and without excessive hyperbolization or exaggeration. Therefore, the “trembling” camera and the sometimes ragged editing are carefully arranged accents by the director, who naturally focuses the viewer’s attention on sincerity and genuine emotions. Due to the complex dramatic structure—similar to the rhythm of cardiogram, which soars up to small heights or victories and then falls again at emotionally and morally tense points—the film acquires a peculiar tempo, a swinging rhythm, which allows the action to be dragged out and sped up. This pattern embodies the principle of the natural flow of time, above all, in the space of the viewer’s consciousness.

A complex dramatic scheme emerged from the acting, making it seem as though real “live action” was taking place. An example is the episode with a badly burnt girl. The scene is completely unhinged from the narration and at the same time creates an incredibly important emotional contrast with the subsequent scene of Oleg’s return home, where he comes face to face again with his internal conflict articulated visually through the literal clash with his bags on the doorstep of his and Katia’s apartment. This scene clearly demonstrates the peculiar duality of spaces—the artistic and thematic, colliding formally the natural environment of the character’s life, his oscillation between “yes” and “no.”

The notorious subject of love that long ago turned into cheap boudoir clichés is saturated with the strongest images and highlighted by complex, subtle moments of pain. How vivid and poetic is the image of Oleg running away without looking back from his beloved, who carries away all his pain and fear: a man running to loneliness. We may contrast this scene with the previous one, showing the intimate affinity of husband and wife in the kitchen, which demonstrates close physical contact but, in fact, reveals complete alienation. Here is the effect of contradiction of action and feeling, which helps transmit the image of boundless love for a neighbor, for business, for life—as bright and accurate as possible. Surprisingly, the subtle acting here does not destroy the multi-layered action but only emphasizes the naturalness and “commonness” of what is happening. How flexible in her obstinacy is Irina Gorbacheva as Katia, how expressive in his vulnerability and even in infantility is Aleksandr Iatsenko as Oleg. Perhaps it will sound loud, but Arrhythmia is a most sincere film about love. This statement is reinforced by an obvious fact: it is about love as a feeling that is incredibly painful and strong, classed just as compassion and forgiveness...

It is important to feel the autumn air of a provincial city through a film: so simple and real, a bit cold due to the grey color of the new buildings. For a moment, even the cinematic space seemed more real than life, but after returning to the gloss of cyclic reality this viewer still wanted to get sick with arrhythmia again.

Alexandra Porshneva

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Arrhythmia, Russia 2017
Color, 1920х1080, Dolby Digital 5.1, 112 minutes
Director Boris Khlebnikov
Scriptwriters Nataliia Meshchaninova, Boris Khlebnikov
DoP Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev
Production Design Ol’ga Khlebnikova
Editing Ivan Lebedev, Ol’ga Batalova
Cast: Aleksandr Iatsenko, Irina Gorbacheva, Nikolai Shraiber, Maksim Lagashkin
Producers Ruben Dishdishian, Sergei Selianov
Production Film Company Mars Media, Film Company СТВ, with financial support from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
Distribution (RF) Film Company Mars Media

Boris Khlebnikov: Arrhythmia (Aritmiia, 2017)

reviewed by Alexandra Porshneva © 2017

Updated: 2017 30 Sep 17