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The Sad Side of Gogol

Author: KinoRunner
18 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie hardly constitutes a cinematic masterpiece. Nonetheless as far as its script is concerned it seems to convey a pretty important message and do so in quite adequate a way.

The movie's protagonist is "il conformista". Throughout his entire life he has been complying to the requirements of his surroundings which bear all the indications of our modern globalized society, that is one which had long ago ceased to be comprised of citizens or simply human beings - they became consumers. Though this character clearly understands that it might be not exactly the right thing to do, he seems to be lacking an impetus that could push him to attempt to act in accordance with the way he feels. But then love comes along and provides a missing ingredient. Now he wants to actually change something.

Unfortunately, the protagonist's gust doesn't happen to be backed by his inner preparedness to start to apply to the process of existence any more exertion than he used to while he was conveniently choosing the path of least resistance. No support from outside can be expected either, because all this glossy ''animal farm'' which makes his surroundings are deeply engaged in rat race and very far from being exalted at the sight of his attempt to transform back into a human being. So his intention cannot be realized through such a spontaneous "rebellion" and thus is nothing more than just an unattainable illusion.

And as soon as he commits something that this system, which surrounds him, used to allow him to do while he was part of it and acted out of considerations that made his actions enhance this system, but out of other ones now - which, in fact, jeopardize this system's very foundations, he becomes its enemy and gets instantaneously destroyed by it. He had no life prior to this moment - and he perfectly understood that he was only imitating his existence - but had a dream. When now his castle in the sky encounters an absurd reality - that's why Gogol is repeatedly referenced here - and turns in his perception into the above-mentioned illusion, when it becomes clear that there will be no living his dream (I guess that would be the metaphorical meaning of the girl's "betrayal"), then he is left with absolutely nothing and can only disappear. Which the hero does.

Some time ago Paul Verhoeven made a seemingly unpretentious sci-fi action flick called "Total Recall". But according to the director himself his movie was supposed to pose no small questions. For instance - is it still possible in our modern world to successfully confront the power of blind greed or is it nothing more than just a paranoid illusion nowadays? This movie asks broader ones: is it still possible to remain humans in a completely dehumanized society which made a quest for money and comfort at all costs its sole objective, and where everything, including life itself, is merely "consumed"? And can such a society be sustained at all? Back in 1990 Verhoeven provided his, trickily disguised by the movie's ostensible happy one, open ending - which gave some hope. Sadly, but judging by this movie's finale its author seems already to consider his questions simply rhetorical ones.

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