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Filipp Iankovskii: In Motion (V dvizhenii) (2003)

reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov ©2003


Filipp Iankovskii (born in Saratov in 1968) began his acting career in Andrei Tarkovskiiís Mirror (1975). In the 1990s he became known as one of Russiaís best musical clip makers. In Motion (V dvizhenii 2002) is Iankovskiiís directorial debut.

Iankovskiiís first film, which received two Nika Awards in 2003 including best cinematography, is a male melodrama about a successful journalist, Sasha Guríev (Konstantin Khabenskii) and his search for an authentic identity in glitzy, capitalist Moscow. He and his partner-paparazzo Lisa (Elena Perova) make a living by selling celebrity stories to Moscow tabloids. Sashaís sensational lies, in combination with Lisaís scandalous pictures, provide him a comfortable life in a spacious Western-style condominium, a stylish German car, and a constant cash flow from his publishers. La Dolce vita Russian-style comes at the price of constant lying and role playing. Any Russian film about a man, who lives the roles imposed on him by someone else and dreams of running away from this artificial existence, must pay homage to Federico Felliniís La Dolce vita and Georgii Daneliaís Autumn Marathon. Iankovskii does so via visual quotes and a narrative structure revolving around the protagonist on the run from himself. To this list of references and inspirations mentioned in several reviews, I would also add Sergei Livnevís Hammer and Sickle (1994). Iankovskiiís film shares with Livnevís the glossy fakeness of the protagonistís public image and the imagesí chief manipulatoródirector of photography, Sergei Machilskii.

The narrative structure of the film is determined by Sashaís exhausted, breathless escape from his prescribed social roles in search of something authentic and genuine. He first looks for authenticity in friendship. Ironically, one of his friends is a homeless dog, whom he picked up on a business assignment while pretending to be a charitable animal shelter owner. Later Sasha meets his old school friend, Alesha (Aleksei Makarov), who is currently the Russian presidentís advisor, but they discover that their camaraderie is based only on their memories and some semi-destroyed footage of their summer together as students. In everything else Sasha has very little in common with his high-powered buddy.

After failing to find an authentic experience in friendship, Sasha turns to his relationships with women. Predictably, he has no communication whatsoever with his girlfriend Vera (Oksana Fandera). Two brief affairs with Lena (Olga Sidorova) and Olga (Aleshaís wife played by Anastasia von Kalmanovich) provide a narrative frame and a lot of frustration for Sasha. When Sasha makes love to Olga, the sound effects emphasize the physical thrust of love-making, but Sasha fails to ignite any passion or penetrate anything beyond the vaginal surface of his partner.

Finally, the theme of the quest for an authentic experience comes back to the protagonist through photographic images that he and Lisa made at the filmís opening. Sasha realizes that he took pictures of Aleshaís wife and that they will ruin his career. When he tries to destroy the pictures, he discovers that Lisaís boyfriend stole the photographs. Sashaís ongoing pursuit of the stolen pictures halts abruptly when both Lisa and her boyfriend are murdered because of Sashaís interference.

The protagonistís quest for authenticity is closely connected with the theme of the media image and its failure as a heuristic tool. In Iankovskiiís film, the camera doesnít reveal anything beyond the surface of the objects and charactersí bodies. Moreover, instead of revealing, the camera disguises and manipulates the viewer and the characters. Characters, just like viewers, do not realize what they see or the consequences of manipulating photographs. Sasha doesnít understand till later in the film that by taking pictures he risks his school friendís life and by getting the pictures back causes Lisaís death.

The manipulative nature of the media image also manifests itself in an inviting yet slightly surreal portrait of post-Soviet Moscow. Iankovskii erases the cityís past and manipulates its present image. Moscow, filmed by cinematographer, Sergei Machilskii, consists of new rich storefronts, night clubs, and Luzhkov-style postmodernist architecture: an eclectic combination of nostalgic Stalinist style with Western construction technologies and interior design. This Moscow is bereft of both traditional historical highlights, such as the Kremlin or well-known historical buildings, as well as the Soviet-style prefabricated slums-projects that dominate the Moscow skyline. The cinematic space created by Machilskii, not unlike the tabloids for which Sasha and Lisa work, doesnít represent anything beyond its glamorous surface. This lack of psychological, emotional, or historical depth beyond the two-dimensional image evokes the key line of the film. When Vera asks Sasha to look her in the eyes, he responds: "Vera, for Godís Sake, what do you expect to see in them?" In Iankovskiiís film, eyes provide an expressive surface for the media image but fail to serve as the traditional mirror of the soul.

The glossy surface of the photographic image serves as a visual metaphor that evokes the male protagonistís inability to establish genuine human contact with his lovers and friends, or to escape the established rules of his superficial life. The filmmaker captures his protagonistís ultimate disorientation visually by violating the 180 degree rule in the closing sequence; the viewer is supposed to identify with the protagonist in his endless and disorienting motion. Judging by the filmís box office success, Russian moviegoers found Iankovskiiís debut in tune with their sense of space and time.


CREDITS

Russia 2002. 92 min. Color.

Director: Filipp Iankovskii

Script: Gennadii Ostrovskii | Camera: Sergei Machilskii | Art Director: Ekaterina Zaletaeva | Music: Danila Kalashnik

Cast: Konstantin Khabenskii, Elena Perova, Oksana Fandera, Mikhail Efremov, Aleksandra Skachkova, Olga Sidorova, Oksana Akinshina, and Anastasia von Kalmanovich.

Producers: Fedor Bondarchuk, Viktor Glukhov, Sergei Melkumov, Stepan Mikhalkov, Elena Iatsura.


Filipp Iankovskii: In Motion (V dvizhenii) (2003)

reviewed by Alexander Prokhorov ©2003

24/10/03