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13 October 1997 (USA)  »

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Lack of aim and structure sees the boredom of real lives make for a dull film
29 May 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Filmmaker Viktor Kosakovsky was born on the 19th July 1961 in the city formerly known as Leningrad. In 1995 he decided to try and catch up with the lives of the other people born in the city on the same day. The result is a film that captures the daily lives of a collection of people.

This film has won awards and was considered to be quite the darling of the European festival circuit back when it was released (although I only have the internet to believe for that "fact"). Despite this I am the first person to write a review on it for this site and I must admit that the temptation is to write a pretentious and glowing review of it because it is a Russian documentary that is real and gritty and has clear artistic intentions – to write such a review would mark me out as a man of clear taste who seeks out little-seen foreign films. It would also mark me out as a fraud because this is not how I feel about the film and I could care less if my opinion leaves me open to higher minds telling me that I "didn't get it".

What I saw in the film was the potential to draw together an understanding in the casual viewer of what life is like in this part of Russia as lived by a diverse group of people who only happen to have the connection of being born in the same city on the same day. However in delivery we do not really get that but rather we get a slight glance at the lives of this group of people without a great deal of expansion or thematic extension beyond what they are doing or saying when the camera is on them. This produces some moments of interest and Kosakovsky is not afraid to get right up close to the reality he is shooting (I had to look away from the graphic birth scenes) but the problem is that so much of reality is dull – we all know this because all of us life with some degree of it. Too much of the film is like this though and it offers the viewer almost nothing as if Kosakovsky was out to deliver reality whether it made for interesting viewing or not.

Overall then this is a weak film in my view. It was occasionally interesting and I suppose it does offer a real view of the mundane detail of life in Russia but this is not much of a selling point and I suspect many viewers will be left as uninformed about the bigger picture as they were at the start and only a feeling of boredom to show for it.


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