Issue 72 (2021)

Artem Temnikov: Blood (Krov’, 2018)

reviewed by Christine Engel © 2021

krovThe director calls his film an auteur film (interview with Kuznetsov, 2018). His path there, however, is more than dubious, because he loosely strings together quotations and allusions, eclectically refers to myths, biblical stories, common discourses and recognized films, and probably counts on the fact that in this way a web of relationships heavy with meaning will emerge all by itself, giving his film some layers of depth. The problem, however, is that Temnikov neither pursues such references in more detail nor builds them into the plot logic—his procedure consists of simply putting forward these things without connecting them to the film in a proper way.

The plot develops around a pair of unequal brothers, of whom the strong older one is the victim of a murder through the indirect fault of the weaker younger one. Brother—murder—victim are sufficient cues for Temnikov to evoke associations to famous stories of brothers involved in murder, such as to the successful films Brother (Brat 1997) and Brother 2 (Brat-2, 2000) by Aleksei Balabanov. Furthermore, Romulus and Remus must not be missing, nor Cain and Abel, although in these stories the problem of a violent death is completely different—a confusing circumstance for the audience.

In Blood the two brothers experience an idyllic childhood in eastern Ukraine, among their family, at the dacha in rural surroundings, which is recalled in flashbacks, whereby the image composition frequently borrows from Mirror (Zerkalo 1974) by Andrei Tarkovskii. The temporal reference point of the plot, however, is present-day Moscow, where the two—after a long separation—meet as young adults again. Vadim, the older one, is professionally successful, lives in a chic condominium, is an adherent of Machiavelli’s ideas and flirts with the idea of the “Übermensch.” The sensitive Valerii, on the other hand, has remained true to his inclinations as an artist despite his brother's earlier attempts to make him a “strong man.” Yet he has remained bitterly poor and has to earn a few kopecks as a portrait painter on the Arbat. The contrastive comparisons between life in the big city and in the countryside and between the tough businessman and the poor artist do not go beyond the usual clichés, just like the images of the glamourous condominiums, the city center of Moscow, the nightclubs or the young women that correspond to the images in the glossy magazines. The love story of the two brothers with their cousin Lina is staged as a ménage à trois and serves mainly as a take-off point for sex scenes.

krovOn the plot level, a chance meeting of Valerii with a former schoolmate, who is involved in drug trafficking, sets off the catastrophe: without money and accommodation, Valerii feels compelled to agree to an assignment as a drug courier to Istanbul. When this venture threatens to fail, he throws the narcotics into the sea and from then on is pursued by two killers under the motto “your money or your life.” His brother cannot or will not give him the required money, but offers him his car for an escape. This eventually takes both protagonists back to the place of their youth, where Vadim rushes to his brother’s aid and becomes the victim of the killers, or rather sacrifices himself. Valerii buries the corpse at sea, weighted down with a stone, as a last service of love, a scene which is captured in underwater images familiar from the film Admiral (dir. Andrei Kravchuk, 2008). Not missing from this wide-ranging potpourri of allusions is a reference to Orthodoxy, which is evoked in a scene showing the two brothers in a decaying church with a fresco on the wall – a setting that is modelled on corresponding scenes in Tarkovskii’s films or Balabanov’s Me Too (Ia tozhe khochu, 2012). And, moreover, the director wants the final sequence, in which Valerii sits musingly on a stone in the vast landscape, to be understood as a reference to the well-known painting by Ivan N. Kramskoi Christ in the Desert (1872) (interview with Kuznetsov, 2018).

krovIn his interviews, Temnikov gives the film a pseudo-intellectual touch, murmurs about myth as being genuine and archetypical, and at the same time anchors the film in nationalistic blood-and-soil discourses: “I love myths and parables, because their language comes from pre-dramaturgical, even pre-religious times, when there were no solidified cults, but only myths and legends, into which the folk soul put something very primal, something that comes from the instinctive, from blood and soil. And this film is built on a myth” (interview with Kuznetsov, 2018). The press release for the film, which is ruminated in most (short) reviews, aims in the same direction, whereas some critical voices—although in the minority—clearly point out the film’s flaws as Nightmare173 does in his blog on Otzovik: “Either Artem Temnikov understood the word ‘parable’ too literally or, in the heat of passion, failed to make out the cause-and-effect connections, but his inept handling of the wisdom of millennia is evident.”

Christine Engel,
University of Innsbruck

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Works Cited

Kuznetsov, Dmitrii. 2018. ”Krov’ i pravda”. Svobodnaia pressa.

Nightmare173. (2020) “Otzyv: Fil’m ‘Krov’” (2018) – Iazyk iz Moskvy uvedet.” Otzovik.

Blood, Russia, 2018
Color, 106 minutes
Director: Artem Temnikov
Screenplay: Artem Temnikov, Valerii Bylinskii
Cinematography: Aziz Zhambakiev
Music: Konstantin Kupriianov
Cast: Aleksandr Novin, Jurii Nikolaenko, Anastasiia Kliueva, Agrippina Steklova, Evgenii Sidikhin, Nikita Menshun, Daniil Kushnerenko
Production: Tretii Rim
Release: 21 November 2019

Artem Temnikov: Blood (Krov’, 2018)

reviewed by Christine Engel © 2021

Updated: 2021