If We Dead Awaken


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

If We Dead Awaken
"This is a strong film, an indicator of the talent of both writer and director."

There are other Londons - not just the fascist Disneyland of the Olympics or the alien-attracting by-ways of Attack The Block and Storage 24, but the immigrant Londons, the Chinatowns, the little Afghanistans. This is set in one of those parallel capitols, the London of Russians - not the new money and old crimes of Eastern Promises, but Litvenenko's London. These are the defectors of Droitwich, the Putins of Putney. "The wall came down and our spies became millionaires".

Part of Channel Four's Coming Up scheme, debut director Luke McManus and first-time writer James Phillips have crafted a post-Cold War confection, an affecting portrait of people and a place, both geographic and psychological.

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Ingaborga Dapkunaite plays a former ballerina, context neatly given to us from newspaper clippings during an interview - she is 'The Beauty Who Came West'. Ingaborga manages a particular calm, savage at times too - there is an incredibly powerful moment when she gives a tour of her house, confronting a key figure from her past. He is the man who was assigned to guard her when the Bolshoi visited, who suffered after her defection. Branko Djuric plays him, recently seen in Angelina Jolie's In The Land Of Blood And Honey. He is seeking to publicise the crimes of his paymasters, to reconcile with her, all of it distorted by the post-Wall security apparatus, by the intimacies of the eavesdropper. As she explains, or rather refuses to explain, her complicated history to her daughter (Phoebe Fox) we start to discover that 'free' is not the same as 'safe', and the reverse.

There are neat moments, scenes of recall and memory - the various implications of a film projector's rustling as an unseen figure dances. Dan Parry provides excellent music as always - in truth he's one of the unsung heroes of the scheme, ably providing scores for dystopian science fiction, harrowing homeless dramas, and a wide variety of distorted domesticities. Here he manages something fit for a thriller without spies, all personal paranoias layered on top of the callousness of states.

Coming Up casts grow stronger year on year, but this one works particularly well. This is a strong film, an indicator of the talent of both writer and director. Its bleakness is apposite to genre, that old conflict between ideology, idealism and vengeance. If We Dead Awaken is, as one would hope, haunting.

Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2012
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A former KGB agent seeks out the ballerina he loved, but he cannot escape the past.

Director: Luke McManus

Writer: James Phillips

Starring: Branko Djuric, Ingaborga Dapkunaite, Phoebe Fox, Stanley Townsend

Year: 2012

Runtime: 23 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2012

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