A widowed aeronautics engineer, who has lost his job, travels with his son hopping freight trains from Moscow to Koktebel, a town by the Black Sea, to start a new life with the father's ... See full summary »
Somewhere in Northern Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery lives an unusual man whose bizarre conduct confuses his fellow monks, while others who visit the island believe that the man has the power to heal, exorcise demons and foretell the future.
When Ruslana floods her Munich flat, Vladan, a former Boxer from Serbia, comes to her rescue. It is the night when Ruslana's son Bogdan should finally come from Kiev. He rather falls in ... See full summary »
A story of a simple, naive Russian man Konek and the people around him: his love and her sister and a mysterious man. The film is set in 1957, time of changes, time of waiting for something big to happen.
Adequacy is relative. Vitalik, the main character of the movie, seems to be pretty normal. With a respectable office job, a comfy little dwelling and a personal couch doctor, Vitalik looks ... See full summary »
Winner of a Golden Plaque award at the Chicago International Film Festival "for its complex and poetic evocation of an ambiguous period in Soviet history," Marina Razbezhkina's debut film ... See full summary »
"Free Floating" is a melodrama with elements of comedy about a young lad from an ordinary provincial town like many in Russia, with just one kindergarten, one school, one factory. As a ... See full summary »
A genuine satiric comedy, based on real conversations - both amusing and sad - overheard by a journalist in one of the most expensive Moscow restaurants. Hilarious and revealing, this is a ... See full summary »
In 16th-century Russia in the grip of chaos, Ivan the Terrible strongly believes he is vested with a holy mission. Believing he can understand and interpret the signs, he sees the Last ... See full summary »
A widowed aeronautics engineer, who has lost his job, travels with his son hopping freight trains from Moscow to Koktebel, a town by the Black Sea, to start a new life with the father's sister. After they are stopped by a train guard, they continue their travel on foot. The father battles against his alcohol addiction and the son is fascinated with the idea of flight. One rainy day an old man accepts them in his house in return for the repair of the roof. The father gives in to the alcohol offered by the old man, who in a drunken brawl accuses him of stealing money and shoots him. A young female village doctor takes care of him and a romantic relationship between the two ensues. The father feels reluctant to continue the journey. The son leaves alone and a truck driver gives him a ride to Koktebel. However, his aunt has left for the summer. Written by
Koktabel follows the progress of a penniless father and son from some undefined point in Russia to a Black-Sea resort in the Crimea. From my point of view, the story and its characters are primarily vehicles for the stunning images, which ultimately steal the show. But that's not to take anything away from a well-acted story with some very tense and some very funny moments.
Here are a few of the most memorable pictures which stayed with me long after watching the film: 1) A red and white parasol on an empty pebble beach at night, twitching like a living thing, waves breaking, perfectly black water; 2) A close-up of a girl's hair roots, a cash register and a cashier's voice audible from beyond; 3) A solitary wooden toilet shack outside a wood with a cheap stereo hanging from a neighbouring tree branch, little red lights on the speakers flashing like eyes as the camera approaches, the music gets louder; 4) Objects flashing into view for split seconds between stretches of darkness, as seen through the lens of an old camera.
Between the geometric shapes of the opening and closing shots (a tunnel in a hill and a bird's-eye view of a landing pier respectively), almost every scene provides an earthy, harmonious, visual gem, each worthy of admiration in its own right.
The clearest recurring theme in the film is flying. One of the first lines is the father's weary joke "we'll go by plane" (wrongly subtitled as "we'll fly") he's a former plane engineer. Fed on his talk of butterflies and birds and hang-gliders, his son has his own dreams of flight, which recur as an albatross in an illustrated book, as rusty sheets of metal gliding from a roof, as sheets of paper being launched from a hilltop (the motionless camera leaves us to wonder how far the last one does actually fly), with the boy's gift of being able to visualise a landscape from a great height (filmmakers can have poetic licence too), and with the film's closing bird's-eye shot. To me this flying metaphor can be extended beyond it's obvious application to the boy (living in poverty but abounding in curiosity, imagination, and daydreams), to the lowly cast of the film, left behind by the new Russia (and Ukraine), and to the economic backwaters they live in. Whether or not the characters themselves dream of flying, the filmmaker, dwelling lovingly on the things that surround them (apple trees, a storm, a washing line) elevates them to a work of art, and does their dreaming for them.
I couldn't fail to deeply admire this film, but I don't expect anyone to share my very personal take on it in its measured, pensive, quiet voice, Koktabel shows us the former USSR from an angle which brings out those same qualities that impressed me in my first experiences of the place. Not the glitz and kitsch and squalour of its largest cities, but its vast expanses (expressed in the film through fields, roads, and rail tracks), the uniqueness of Russian minutiae (a soviet-manufactured metal tub, an old-fashioned box of cigarettes, standard cheap wallpaper and clock in a house, the bustle in a tourist market), and above all, vibrancy amidst decay.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?