Issue 73 (2021)

Grigorii Kolomiitsev: Chupacabra (2020)

reviewed by Alexey Kalachev © 2021

chupacabraThe film Chupacabra is a story about the young boy Andrei, who faces a lack of love from his parents. The atmosphere of loneliness or, more specifically, abandonment strikes to the marrow. The sense of abandonment is at the heart of the film. Andrei is a boy who collects different “treasurers” in his cave, and he spends there most of his free time. He returns to this place again and again, seeking solace.

The environment around Andrei is a gaunt landscape with a constant wind and changing sea. The place where the boy hides all his treasures is on the seashore, where the land meets the sea. This constructed childish world saves him from his troubles in daily life. His mother wants to send him to a state boarding school. The father has no relation to the boy; in fact, he behaves like a stranger to his son. The only person with whom Andrei has a good relationship is the teenage girl Lena, and there is also his friend Petr.

It becomes clear that Andrei is different. The sense of loss becomes stronger by contrasting Andrei with his friend Petr. They are the same age, and in some way, live in the same social conditions. But his friend is out of the Andrei’s picture, because of his better family situation. His friend communicates with Andrei as long as he has an interest. Andrei remains alone in his feelings, and his friend simply cannot understand him. Lena, on the contrary, is the only character who has empathy for Andrei. She tries to back him, and to introduce him to the good side of life. Andrei likes her purely, and is even jealous of the local guy Shamil’, who has an affair with Lena. They talk about love, and she even participates in burying a dead dog that Andrei finds. The dog he has found is, as he imagines, the mysterious Chupacabra.

chupacabraBefore the dog’s funeral, he notices it several times. He even communicates with Chupacabra, who presents him with a magical moment when the dog comes closer to Andrei in the scene on the beach. The dog carries in its mouth a bottle that it brings to Andrei, as the latter tries to feed it a cucumber, but the dog runs away. The color of the bottle differs from the others that Andrei used to collect. It is violet, and this mother-of-pearl shade is accompanied with a mysterious melody while Andrei looks through the bottle like a telescope and sees a half-sunken barge. Andrei is obsessed with reaching this barge to get closer to something curious and, at the same time, to leave this place.

There are a lot of points for comparison between Andrei and Chupacabra. The key moment of the first identification between Chupacabra and Andrei occurs in the scene with his mother who watches a TV program. The way she looks at Andrei is accompanied with a phrase from TV: “This animal has extraordinary guile and enormous physical strength,” and points to his connection with the animal. The next embodiment happens when the mother kicks him out of the house. Andrei says: “I have drowned there.” He said it, possibly, at the same time when the dog from the beach went into the sea.

chupacabraAfter the dog’s death, Andrei takes care of the corpse and buries it with Lena. She tells him: “They say, whoever buries Chupacabra becomes Chupacabra.” These words from Lena only intensify Andrei’s immersion into Chupacabra’s personality. He even expresses this in the scene in the car. The driver notices Andrei stealing a ride and boots him out while Andrei bites him, screaming, “I am Chupacabra!” Another moment is when children rehearse a play in a theatre and sing: “we are friends… even though you are a beast.” This cue also chimes in his head, immersing him deeper into Chupacabra.

The final sequence shows the dialogue of Andrei with the buried dog. He asks it what to do, because his mother does not love him and he wants to run away. At the same time, the mother’s house catches fire, probably because of her cigarette butt. Andrei witnesses it and runs away to the buried dog, digging up the corpse, and says: “Do not leave me, Chupacabra.”

Thus, the figure of Chupacabra becomes even more complex in relation to the reflection of Andrei’s mother. Returning to the scene with the TV program, the mother watches the story about Chupacabra. While the background voice says: “This animal has extraordinary guile and enormous physical strength,” the camera shows the look of the slowly moving face of the mother. In this way Chupacabra is not only a personification of Andrei, his alter-ego, but at the same time a personification of his mother’s love. Moreover, it is a sublimation of both their love for each other, which is never expressed in real life.

Meanwhile, we can hardly apply this to Andrei’s father. The latter has no such weight in Andrei’s life as his mother. There is a total abandonment by the father, without any attempts to communicate, contrary to the mother. We can see her failures to communicate with Andrei in the scene when Andrei washes the dishes. While Andrei is helping his mother to clean empty bottles, she notices the paper for admission to the boarding school. She feels guilty and tries to caress Andrei; she expresses her love for him by standing behind and slowly coming closer to Andrei’s nape, like an animal. But when she comes to the intimate space between a child and a mother, Andrei runs away. He reacts like an animal that runs away when people want to touch it; he is afraid of her sudden tender feelings.

The film Chupacabra asks if it is morally right for parents to abandon their child. Andrei’s parents are very distant from him. They cannot find Andrei in their lives, but they not out of cruelty. They reject him, because they do not know how to love their child. The film has some common features with Loveless (Neliubov’, 2018) by Andrei Zviagintsev. The same situation occurs of a son left alone, of disinterested parents. The boy who is abandoned by his parents faces the cruel side of life where he, literally, has no future.

The final scene shows Andrei in the sailing boat before the dawn. Chupacabra is alive near him. The final sound that Andrei hears is Lena’s voice calling him back. But he could only turn his head back, staring into nowhere. It is an obvious metaphor of death where Andrei finally reaches his own horizon in calmness.

Alexey Kalachev
University of Passau

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Chupacabra, Russia, 2020
Color, 75 minutes
Director: Grigorii Kolomiitsev
Script: Serafima Golovchenko
DoP: Aleksei Venzos
Production Design: Aleksandra Nikiforova
Cast: Karina Aleksandrova, Serafim Cherkinskii, Said Gamzatov, Tatʹiana Kniazeva, Platon Kuzmich
Producer: Vladimir Malyshev, Fedor Popov
Production Company: Stella

Grigorii Kolomiitsev: Chupacabra (2020)

reviewed by Alexey Kalachev © 2021

Updated: 2021