After Venya's mother receives a call from school reporting her son's refusal to participate in mixed swimming lessons, she first suspects her teenager of being shy and derides his claim that it is "against his religion." As Venya is finally exempted by the school's devout principal, he grows confident that his strict and rigorous study of the Bible gives him the ability to manipulate all forms of authority. Challenged by a teacher who refuses to consent to his dogma, he sets out to eliminate her and subdue an entire community. At a time when arguments over the teaching of religion in public schools are prominent in the media, this wildly escalating classroom drama - based on a play by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg - serves as a frightening cautionary tale.Written by
Under The Milky Way
The original Russian title "(M)uchenik", with the 'm' in parentheses, is a play on words, a pun, combining the Russian word "muchenik", which means "martyr", with the Russian word "uchenik", which means "student". Because the Russian pun would not be understood, and there is no way to translate it, the simplified title "Uchenik", or "The Student", was used at the Cannes Film Festival 2016. See more »
Venya is a teenager with attitude, he is cared for by a single mother who works three jobs to keep body and soul together. Then one day she gets a call from his school saying he is refusing to take part in mixed swimming lessons. She imagines all the reasons why a teenage boy may not want to do such an activity but never thought that it would be against his political convictions. However, he insists that he is religiously motivated and his stance finds traction in the school principle.
As he realises that religion is power so he sets out to control those around him by becoming a sort of walking, talking Bible. The passages he quotes are very subjective and selective but when delivered with absolute conviction seem to carry more weight and their implicit truth appears loaded with spiritual and moral currency. His Nemesis in this is a forward thinking science and biology teacher but he knows he has God on his side.
Now this is taken from the play by Marius von Mayenburg who is German and the original Russian title was '(M)uchenik' which is a play on Russian words in that muchenik is 'martyr' and 'uchenik' is student – and as such is a brilliant title, but would not work in English – hence 'The Student'. The issues of religious control and the like are hot and controversial topics with parallels to way more than Christianity and as such the film has had its critics.
The acting, directing and cinematography are all excellent and the plot is both compelling and urgent for a film that runs just shy of two hours it really does not waste any time – in Russian with good sub titles this is a film that will divide opinion and I think that is no bad thing – so recommended to those who like to have to think about their cinema.
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