20-05-2010

FNE at Cannes IFF 2010: SCHASTYE MOE (MY JOY)

By

CANNES: Belarussian born documentary director Sergei Loznitsa's first venture into feature film was 10 years in the making. He has based his story on his own travels around provincial Russia over the past decade which has seen a time of tremendous change and upheaval in Russia. But it is hard to accept the joyless, brutal world he portrays in this ironically titled film.

While some scenes take us to a twilight zone where the characters inhabit a horror filled realm doc maker Loznitsa brings to this world asks us to also accept the real existence of this world. The opening scenes where three men throw a body into a hole which is filled with cement and covered over with a bulldozer set us up for what is to come. The main character, a truck driver named Georgy played by Viktor Nemets takes us on a journey through a seeming real world that increasingly becomes unreal in its violence and brutality.

Georgy picks up hitchhikers as he drives along and his first passenger is an old man played by Vladimir Golovin who appears in his truck mysteriously. The old man takes us back to World War II as he tells Georgy about his experiences during the war as a young man. This sets the scene for the episodes in the second half of the film that take us back in time to the war during the second half of the film.

Georgy's next passenger is a young prostitute played by Olga Shuvalova who tells Georgy that this region is cursed and he will find no friends here. Georgy finds himself increasingly drawn into this strange world where any form of human decency seems to have become extinct in the struggle for survival. As Georgy's journey into hell continues the prostitute's words become prophetic.

The pace of the film is slow and the violence is harsh not stylistic. The look of the film is naturalistic which only adds to the horror. The visual style of the film is created by Moldova DOP Oleg Mutu, one of the leading lights of the Romanian new wave who has lensed The Death of Mr Lazarescu and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Loznitsa changes track in the second half of the movie as it descends into an orgy of savage violence, brutality and horror. The question is if this violence serves any higher purpose or is simply gratuitous?? The provinces of the Former USSR may be boring but the world Loznitsa portrays exists in the director's imagination more than in any documentary reality. If this is Tarantino a la Russe it doesn't work.

My Joy directed by Sergei LOZNITSA

GERMANY, UKRAINE, NETHERLANDS

CAST:

Vlad IVANOV - Major from Moscow

Viktor NEMETS - Georgy

Olga SHUVALOVA - Teenage Prostitute