Mishen (2011) Poster

(2011)

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10/10
A party in your mind
There's a scene in the original version of Rollerball (1975), where a group of wealthy revellers take some sort of ray gun to a stand of tall trees, burning, they light up the dusk. The atmosphere of this scene, a sort of unchecked wilfulness, a blithe feeling of supremacy and elitism, infuses much of Alexander Zeldovich's new film Target. The word ambitious has been floated around a lot to describe it, a critical euphemism for a film that overreaches, and yet I think it's a long, complex and excellent film that repays analysis and is definitely one to view several times.

The most obvious commentary in this movie, set in Russia of the future is about wealth distribution and squandering of assets. In 2006 a survey reported that the richest three people on the planet have more wealth than the poorest 48 countries. This was a phenomenon that maybe hadn't permeated its way back into Russia until perestroika, and the advent of the robber barons *ahem* I mean oligarchs. The peers of this realm revel in their situation, Roman in their outlook, gratified by the disparity. This is set out in a couple of particularly elegant scenarios (nets and earrings if you've seen the film).

Four of the privileged head off to a remote location where a gigantic quantum sieve, a relic of the space age, collects some sort of zero point energy that's meant to halt the ageing process. This is does, but it also seems to accentuate the trajectories of each character's fate. My thought at the end was that it's really a movie about love, but you have to work to get to that. I suppose it depends on whether you think Solyaris is a movie about love or about a strange shiny planet. I don't think the comparison is a bad one either. It's very boring to read almost every film on the festival circuit being labelled Tarkovsky-ian, but I very much felt that Target is cut from the same cloth as Solyaris.

There's a lot going on in the movie, action, science fiction, political commentary, romance, quotes from Lermontov. It's a colourful movie mostly filled with upbeat music, and three hours of it still felt short to me.
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9/10
On target
hte-trasme5 October 2014
I found this film because I was interested in the script by also- novelist Vladimir Sorokin, and it wasn't disappointed. It turned out to be an intelligent, subtle, thoughtful screenplay that seems to have been treated with huge respect by the filmmakers. That's important because in terms of several elements including not just the scenario and dialogue but also the pacing and visual images, this is a very daring and ambitious piece of film.

"Targets" is very atypically structured and paced: it's long, and its narrative-- which while basically chronological does indulge in flashback scenes -- is not really straightforward. And I think that helps it in delineating and very original treatment of an age old fountain-of-youth theme.

We focus of several rich Muscovites who discover an area with special properties to stop again. And the central contradiction of their seeking of it is explored powerfully in several ways: these are people for whom life is empty, and they seek to prolong it by extending it. But they are treated very humanly, and so this strong satire on the emptiness of wealth and its centrality to modern life rarely ends up seeming mean-spirited. Instead the lives of the protagonists play out like several individual bleak and touching personal tragedies.

Occasionally, things pill slightly over the top, and often this is in the parodies of sections of TV shows, but become a bit too heavy- handed making the still-good point, but detract little from the whole.

While the pace is slow, the film to me never felt dull, but rather fascinating. Sincere and quietly-intense acting from all parties, interesting, significant camera-work, and sometime-shocking but always well-executed set pieces contribute to this.

Another important theme running parallel to the agonies introduced by eternal you is a pair of glasses that an distinguish good and evil, down to the physical good or evil properties of types of matter. And this invention ends up being of no use, scoffed when introduced to the public. Like eternal youth, the ability to know right from wrong with certainty is a long-sought and implausible goal that when attained reaps no helpful rewards.

An intelligent film whose ambition pays off. I'm sure that repeated viewings will reveal more nuances, which in itself is a sign of a success.
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A Glorious, Slow-paced, but ultimately satisfying film
nick9496528 April 2012
Beautifully shot and set in the most incredible landscapes ever (apparently most of the exteriors were filmed in Mongolia), this is an extraordinary near-future intellectual sci-fi. The sci-fi elements in the film are integrated into the narrative in a fundamental way, as opposed to the effects in movies about the future which are more like robot porn.

Here, everything is understated: There are four main characters who are driven to be more than human, and each one is a microcosm of one segment of Russian society: there is an overachieving Noble-prize level scientist; his frigid Stepford wife; her brother who is a Russian version of Ryan Secrest; and a neo-Nazi type of leader of an organized crime syndicate. This last one is all evil, whereas the others are complicated by their personalities, which range between good and non-good.

They journey to a distant site in the middle of a vast empty landscape-- a circle that seems to be a mile in diameter, in which the center functions as a kind of funnel for all of the energy gathered from the sun and stars. There is a rumor that all of the people in the area have eternal youth, and these four are intrigued enough to spend any amount to find out for themselves.

Into the mix is thrown a woman who may just be the Russian Secrest's perfect counterpart, and the five of them "adopt" one woman who appears to be in her 20's, yet is 30 years older. Now the six characters experience what it means to have complete and utter youth and happiness. As you might imagine, it comes with horrifying pitfalls.

There are so many themes in the film that it would be hard to summarize them all, but suffice it to say that the film plays with the idea of a sliding scale of good and evil existing in all people and all things.

And there is yet another important theme, which is that old age, with its wisdom, is way more preferable than the limitations of a life of childish wanton behavior.
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