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In a post-apocalyptic world, in which a large part of the population consists of demented and deformed mutants being kept in reservations, a man embarks upon visiting the ruins of a museum buried under the sea which can only be accessed during low tide. Written by
In Letters from a Dead Man director Konstantin Lopushanksy tinted much of the background yellow. In A Vistor to a Museum, the director applies a red tint to much of the film. The end result is often hypnotic. A traveler arrives at a hellish outpost in the Russian landscape. This wasteland is where the rest of the country sends its garbage. Mountains of trash are piled high. The surrounding ocean is dead, the result of chemical waste. Somewhere in the horizon mutants, called "degenerates," reside on a reservation. The local tavern lights fires at night (more red) to keep the degenerates away. The traveler has come to visit a flooded museum. For one week a year, the tide departs and one can walk the ocean floor. The visitor plans to travel the three days to the museum and the three days back during this period of no tide. The locals think he is crazy, but the visitor must make this journey. He is searching for a mound inside the museum that is rumored to be a portal to another world.
Andrei Tarkovsy fans may note the similarity to Stalker. Like in that film, the protagonist lives a depressing existence and only has his faith in a rumor, a legend, to keep him going. A Visitor to a Museum is good but not as good as Stalker (incidentally, one of my favorite films). Konstantin Lopushansky worked on the crew of Stalker and he is trying to direct this film as Tarkovsky might have. The difference is that Lopushansky is a gifted, intellectually minded stylist while Tarkovsky was a true poet of the cinema, one of the medium's great voices.
To his credit, Lopushanksy conjures up some amazing images. My personal favorite is the degenerates carrying the visitor to the water's edge. I also loved the landscape shots which, like Stalker, convey a world off-kilter. The last shot is also very memorable. The director is less successful with telling his story. That last shot, visually stunning though it is, leaves the viewer unsure of what to take away from the film. The entire final half-hour (the journey across the ocean floor) is ambiguous. Something life changing happens to the visitor toward the end of the film, but I was not exactly sure what it was. What did the ending mean? Got me!
Despite its ambiguity, A Visitor to a Museum grabbed me. I felt like this was one of the most rewarding science fiction films I had seen in some time, a film that created a distinct and unique world. My mind is still replaying some of this images from the film two weeks after viewing. I shake my head thinking of all the films that are forgotten as soon as their end credits roll.
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