Issue 50 (2015)

Roman Prygunov: Dukhless 2 (2015)

reviewed by Olga Mukhortova© 2015

dukhless2Despite the difficult economic circumstances in Russia that began at the end of 2014, Dukhless 2 grossed 490 million rubles at the box office, while its predecessor, Dukhless (2011) made 414 million rubles, both attracting almost 2 million viewers and making a comfortable profit, a rare occurrence in the contemporary Russian film industry. Moreover, in good economic circumstances and the opportunity to exhibit the film in Russian-speaking post-Soviet countries--neither opportunity available to Dukhless 2—the sequel would have had the potential to become even more successful than its predecessor. Cinema critics like Anton Dolin, Dmitrii Ostashevskii, and Boris Ivanov favor the sequel of Maxim Andreev’s story, who in Dukhless 2 is a former investment banker and a surfer on Bali. They underline that the film raises politically oriented questions; first of all, it draws attention to the oil- and gas-based economy that leads to statewide corruption. Vasilii Stepanov discusses these political themes, yet the film’s serious tone is its main failure: the film lacks humor, and the main character functions as a familiar Russian culture figure—the superfluous man—without any psychological depth.

dukhless2Maksim Andreev (Danila Kozlovskii) hides on Bali from the Russian Investigation Committee that concocts a case against him. The island looks like a fairy tale in the middle of azure ocean waves and sandy beaches. This situation, persistently called downshifting, ends quickly and unexpectedly. While surfing, Maksim saves the life of Roman (Miloš Biković), who leads a big state company that develops innovations in Russia while trying to overcome the oil-based economic trajectory. Familiar people from state power structures, which clearly refer the audience to former Minister of Defense Antolii Serdukov and his colleague EvgeniiaVasil’eva, play a political game against Roman and his boss (reminiscent of Sergei Kapkov, the former head of the Moscow Culture Department) and uses Maksim as an insider and an informer, blackmailing him with a previously framed-up case.

dukhless2The very essence of the main character changes from an individual who tries to make the world a better place to a surfer-boy and beach-bum. In the first film, Maksim leaves the soulless hierarchy of the corporate business world, drugs, and his girlfriend for a freer, better life—and takes his money with him. On Bali, he maintains a healthy lifestyle through meditation, yoga, and sex. Not only is surfing his occupation, but it is the main metaphor for his life. Now tanned, fit, and modeling six-pack abs, Max uses the power of masterfully shot aquamarine waves to slide over them and find some fun in his life. When Max is not half naked, he is dressed in white shirts, a stark contrast to his dark business suits in Dukhless. The glamour from Part One is dead, while a hipster is born in Part Two. Max’s anti-glamour beard and white T-shirts pretend to be democratic and simple, but this simplicity is quite expensive and includes a three-storey house, an expensive bike, and a custom-made surf board that substitutes for his former black BMW. His white surfboard, or tabula rasa, as Max calls it, reflects the mental state that Max would like to obtain. He tries his hardest to keep himself mentally sane while surfing. Max fails to keep himself apart from Russian life: his political “surfing skills” are underdeveloped and he cannot resist its enormous lure. In addition, he still has illusions that Russian politics and economics can be run in an honest way without corruption. He still believes in people around him and in the person who rests at the top of the Russian state hierarchy.

dukhless2As soon as Max comes back to Moscow, his black business suit (now donned with product placement from Hugo Boss in TsUM) returns, although his white shirt is still present under his jacket. Max now finds himself in a cohort of shaved businessmen (the look that the Russian state has approved since Peter the Great) in black suits, in an eternal fight with men empowered by the state (also shaved) and a woman in military uniform.  In the middle of the state’s ocean vortex, Max is trying to surf on the dangerous waves of state politics and the developing innovative (but still corrupt) Russian economic system. Now the power of nature is replaced by state power.

The image of the Russian state reinforced by uniformed men is very aggressive and disrespectful toward any individual on the bottom or outside of its pyramid. The dialogues produced by the uniformed state servants switch back and forth from “ty” to “vy,” between name-patronymic and “synok,” both humiliating and inappropriately familiar. This is the linguistic register in which the Russian state has spoken to people over centuries and that the director Roman Prygunov describes in detail. The unchanging Russian state hierarchy rooted into the oil tube and gas valve can only patronize people and use them to serve its own interests.

As Maksim arrives in Moscow, the stunning views of the powerful capital city replace the appealing panoramas of the Indian Ocean. The cameraman Pavel Kapinos insists that Moscow City, Sparrow Hills, the White House, and of course the Kremlin could be as beautiful as the paradisiacal Bali waves (and of course more patriotic). The camerawork invites the viewer to think about Bali as a mere province of the eternal Moscow, which developed into a world-influencing metropolis, with the real center hidden behind the Kremlin wall. Andreev, who succeeds Onegin and Pechorin, cannot fight against this beautiful and soulless system; he is, however, finally able to surf along it (dressed in all black), likely with permission from the very top.

Olga Mukhortova
University of Pittsburgh

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Works Cited

Dolin, Anton. 2015. ““Dukhless 2”: Pervyi politicheskii triller v Rossii.” Afisha 3 March.

Ivanov, Boris. 2015. “Dukhless 2. Put’ Maksito.” 28 February.

Makarova, Elizaveta. 2015. ““Dukhless 2” obrel material'nost'.” Kommersant 5 September.

Ostashevskii, Dmitrii. 2015. ““Dukhless 2” s Daniloi Kozlovskim.” The Hollywood Reporter: Russia. 3 March.

Stepanov, Vasilii. 2015. ““Dukhless 2”: Zachem tebe Solntse, esli ty kurish Shipku?” Seans 5 March.

Dukhless 2, Russia, 2015
Color, 107 minutes
Director: Roman Prygunov
Scriptwriters: Sergei Minaev, Fuad Ibragimbekov, Mikhail Idov, Andrei Ryvkin
Cinematography: Pavel Kapinos
Music: Pavel Esenin
Cast: Danila Kozlovskii, Maria Andreeva, Miloš Biković, Pavel Vorozhtsov, Aleksandra Bortich, Kristina Babushkina, Sergei Burunov, Lev Prygunov, Vladimir Simonov, Dominique Pinon
Producers: Petr Anurov, Fedor Bondarchuk, Dmitrii Rudovskii
Production: Kinoslovo, Art Pictures Studio, Fond Kino

Roman Prygunov: Dukhless 2 (2015)

reviewed by Olga Mukhortova© 2015

Updated: 08 Oct 15