Russian 

[Русское]

Russia, 2004
Color, 112 minutes,
In Russian with English subtitles
Director: Aleksandr Veledinskii
Script: Aleksandr Veledinskii, based on the novels of Eduard Limonov
Cinematography: Pavel Ignatov
Music: Aleksei P. Zubarev
With Andrei Chadov, Olga Arntgol'ts, Evdokiia Germanova, Mikhail Efremov, Vladimir Steklov, Aleksei Gorbunov, Dmitrii Diuzhev, Viktor Rakov, Maksim Lagashkin, Valerii Barinov, Galina Polskikh
Production: Sinemafor, Trial Blok, Pygmalion Production, with the support of the Cinematography Section of the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Aleksandr Veledinskii's Russian, loosely based on Eduard Limonov's autobiographical trilogy (We Had a Great Era, Adolescent Savenko, and The Young Scoundrel), narrates the life and deeds of a young poet, Eddie (Andrei Chadov), first on the streets of provincial Kharkov and, later, after he experiences unrequited love and a failed suicide attempt, in the city insane asylum. In this remote Russian counterpart of Milos Forman's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), the protagonist develops his poetic persona in a psychiatric ward, which turns out to be, if not the safest, at least the freest place in the entire city and, possibly, country.

In the course of the film, the sixteen-year-old protagonist desperately tries to escape the life choices available to him in the provincial town. If Eddie follows the career of his father, he will turn into a secret police officer. If the protagonist follows the example of his street buddies, he will turn into a criminal. The rest of the characters seem to serve the narrative's major goal: to assist the protagonist in articulating an identity beyond the two options that Russian reality offers to everyone else. The quest for the protagonist's identity determines the narrative structure and mise-en-scène of the film. Provincial Kharkov seems to have two centers. The first center is city's official Soviet downtown with the standard monument, cops, and a grocery store selling primarily vodka. The second center turns out to be the local mental institution, the metaphysical, paradoxical locale organized conceptually by the logic of misalliance—between insanity and wisdom, incarceration and absolute freedom. The space of the insane asylum expands ideologically rather than geometrically and extends, at one extreme, to the heavenly summit of the Orthodox belfry and, at the other, to the criminal underworld.

According to this bewildering logic of finding one's identity by losing one's mind, the protagonist is committed by his own mother (Evdokiia Germanova) to the insane asylum that turns out to be not just one more psychiatric ward but the famous insane asylum, Saburka—the school of geniuses, from where Mikhail Vrubel, Vsevolod Garshin, and Velimir Khlebnikov emerged to the ranks of immortal prophets. Two other geniuses hover over the patients-students of Saburka: Sergei Eisenstein, whose October (1928) they watch on the asylum TV set, and Richard Wagner, whose music from Twilight of the Gods accompanies the screening of October. Most importantly, the music is not part of the film's extra-diegetic soundtrack but, rather, the subjective diegetic one—accessible to the fools-in-wisdom, but not to the presumably normal doctors, nurses, and the rest of the city population beyond the walls of the loony bin.

Aleksandr Veledinskii

Aleksandr Veledinskii was born in 1959 in Nizhnii Novgorod. Before he became a filmmaker and scriptwriter, he got a degree in electrical engineering. Veledinskii studied film production at the Graduate School of Scriptwriters and Film Directors (workshop of Aleksandr Proshkin and Valerii Priemykhov) in Moscow, 1993-95. Veledinskii shot two prize-winning shorts—Enfant Terrible (1995) and The Two of Us (2001)—and co-wrote scripts for several TV serials, such as Long Haulers (2001-2002), and The Brigade (2002). He also directed and wrote the script for the TV serial The Law (2002). Russian is Veledinskii's first full feature film. He is currently shooting his second feature film, The Way We Won't Be. The film is slated for release in 2005.



Filmography

1995 Enfant Terrible (short)
2001 The Two of Us (short)
2002 The Law (TV Serial)
2004 Russian
2005 The Way We Won't Be (forthcoming)

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