Who Am I?

Who Am I?

***

Reviewed by: Leanne McGrath

Russia cinema usually makes film fans think of the Soviet social and political commentaries of the 1920s such as Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece Battleship Potemkin, one of the most influential propaganda films of all time. But as state control lessened, filmmakers had more creative freedom and became able to tackle formerly censored topics.

The New Russian cinema blossoming in the 1990s even saw an Oscar for Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt By The Sun, about the impact of Stalinism on a rural community. But Russia still does not enjoy the global success of Hollywood or other global cinemas, largely because making movies is not cheap and they rarely make a profit. Piracy is a big problem and Russians rarely go to the cinema.

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It is a great shame, as talented filmmakers exist there and have the potential to be great, if Who Am I? is any example. This intriguing, Hitchcockian-style mystery focuses on a murder and a quiet young man with memory loss. The budget is low with no special effects but it boasts a gripping story, sincere acting, plot twists and beautiful cinematography that showcases the beauty of Mother Russia’s scenery.

A young man without identification is found at Sevastopol train station claiming he has lost his memory. About the same time, a man is found dead at the bottom of some stairs after having been struck on the head. The youth can remember historical dates but not his own name, so a psychiatrist diagnoses dissociative amnesia and asks him questions about himself in a bid to determine who he is and jog his memory.

Through a series of flashbacks - shot in vivid colour to contrast with the cold grey of the interrogation scenes - we learn about the young man, Pasha. He left his hometown to meet a girl but she stood him up. There was not a train home until the next day, so he wandered the town and met famous actress Anna.

They spend the day together and romance blossoms - but how did Pasha go from his ideal date to being alone with no memory? The director skillfully gives depth to his characters, making the viewer identify with them, while building tension and keeping you guessing until the final frames.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2011
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Mystery surrounds a man with memory loss and a dead body found with no identification.
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