Color, 74 minutes
Director: Ivan Vyrypaev
Script: Ivan Vyrypaev
Cinematography: Andrei Naidenov
Composer: Aidar Gainullin
Art Director: Iurii Kharikov
Cast: Polina Agureeva, Maksim Ushakov, Mikhail Okunev, Iaroslavna Serova, Vitalii Romaniuk, Viacheslav Kokorin, Zoia Zadorozhnaia, Maksim Litovchenko
Producers: Aleksandr Shein, Georgii Lordkipanidze
Production: Pervoe Kinopartnerstvo and Film Studio 2-Plan-2
Euphoria’s plot is straightforward and relatively uncomplicated: it depicts the tragic development of a love triangle that is infused with jealousy and passion—melodramatic, indeed. At the center of the love triangle is Vera, seemingly impartial to the events going on around her. Both her lover, Pasha, and her husband, Valera, ask Vera what to do at several points in the film. Dialogue in Euphoria is generally curt and unresolved, and Vera’s response is always a nonchalant “I don’t know.” She’s not alone in this, however; in the midst of passion and conflict, the film’s characters are disorganized and lack direction, and no one quite knows what to do. Despite this uncertainty, Euphoria’s protagonists do not leave their destinies up to fate and are by no means passive; on the contrary, they act upon their whims, which often leads to ghastly results.
The plot is riddled with gruesome events: merciless killing, vulgarity, adultery. Such shock-factor elements are not a first for Vyrypaev’s scripts. In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, the director claims that many of his works focus on these elements because the world is so conditioned to cruelty; since such events are widespread and readily available through the media, their high frequency decreases people’s emotional responses to them.1 In highlighting these events, Vyrypaev hopes to shake up his audience by drawing attention to the brutality that is so common.
Ironically, emotions are more easily stirred in a fiction film such as Euphoria, where the manipulation and exaggeration of certain factors opens the audience’s eyes wider than they open to real-life stories of greater troubles. The film’s characters, like the global population, often choose to turn away from the camera, as if to avoid the woes that have overtaken their lives. In a series of scenes, their averted gazes contrast with the forward gaze of cattle and sheep, who brazenly face the camera when it is pointed at them. Animals, not plagued by thoughts, guilt, or accountability, are thus more pure; lacking the ability to premeditate future events, they do not counteract the flow of things or of fate. Yet, Euphoria is not a fable, and its tone is not explicitly didactic or moralistic. If anything, the viewer is confused by the juxtaposed visual texture of the film and the characters’ averted gazes; without vision, at least in the physical sense, the viewer would miss Euphoria’s impressive scenery.
Similarly, the idea of knowledge and awareness is a recurring motif in the film, questioning what one can know, what one chooses to know, and what one does know. It is unclear whether Vyrypaev is suggesting a need for a greater vigilance of surroundings events or, on the contrary, of becoming blind to them.
The setting of the film is the vast Russian steppe and has been criticized by some viewers, who claim that it conforms to the stereotypical view of an emotionally-stricken, barren Russia. Conversely, many critics acclaim the breadth of Euphoria’s scenic shots and assert that the setting is non-specific and would have the same effect regardless of its geographical location. Yet, it is hard to miss the juxtaposition of the smallness of individual lives in comparison to the expanse of the land on which they live and love. Despite the many panoramic shots of the Russian steppe, the film’s plot seems to be detached from the land itself. There are numerous close-ups of the film’s protagonists, and the camera’s frequent scanning of the land is not directly intertwined with the destinies of the characters themselves. We do not necessarily view them in terms of the land; arguably, the characters and the land are portrayed as two separate entities that do not explicitly affect each other. The film’s goal is not, once more, to burden its audience with the countryside ennui of village life. In fact, most scenes are abrupt and free of excess, leaving little time for boredom.