Commendable film about death (in spite of the title), also showing inside view on Russian life
I saw this film as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival 2012. I applaud the stepwise introduction of the respective characters, together with introducing the interleaving story lines, all three running in parallel without any connecting persons or locations. There was only a tiny confusing fact that one of the persons was called "Mama" though not being a mother at all (apparently, it's an existing male Christian name there).
Anyway, the introductory scenes were very good, much unlike some films where you get overwhelmed with a shower of various characters, to the extent that you cannot tell who-is-who, needing half the film to finally tell them apart and understand the purpose each one serves. In this case, the parallel story lines do not really cross in person or location. The specialty of this film is that they carry a common theme of life and death. It is not immediately clear from the start, but inferred in hindsight.
This screening was a world premiere, with a considerable part of the film crew present. Before the film started, the director announced that the film was called "Living" but actually was all about death. There was no further explanation. There was also no Q&A afterwards to enlighten us about this. Yet, I can imagine there is a higher purpose for this live versus death theme.
The story and the visuals were entertaining enough to keep us watching for the full 2 hours. Great acting, great views inside and outside the houses, and (as a bonus) also providing for some insight in how official people behave (I refuse to use the term "civil servant" here) in this country. That was illustrated by the social worker as well as by the policeman in the hospital, both not acting as professionals should. (Side note: I saw Twilight Portrait (Nikonova; 2011) a few days ago, with a very depressing view on Russian society. I may be prejudiced and reading too much between the lines here. End side note.)
I noticed a few open ends, but it did not hamper my experience, just raising minor questions. For example, the bicycle that is thrown aside in the beginning of the film, re-appears later to be thrown in the river. I'm not sure it meant anything.
Back to the life and death theme: We see several people die, and observe how their relatives react on these unnecessary deaths. I won't spoil it for you, so I can only say that some very unbelievable things start happening. None of them eventually lead to a happy end, however.
All in all, I had every reason to give the maximum score for the audience award when leaving the theater. Despite a few minor flaws and unexplained matters, I can recommend seeing this film without hesitation.
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