Russian Spleen


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Russian Spleen
"Aleksei Kamynin's second feature comes with so many ideas and so much energy that it almost bursts at the seams." | Photo: Courtesy of Tallinn Black Nights

Aleksei Kamynin's second feature comes with so many ideas and so much energy that it almost bursts at the seams. The general busyness of this tale of a group of young male flatmates and their extended friendship group means that the screenplay feels like assault and battery on the viewer in places, but it is also peppered with some sharp observations of what it means to be a young Muscovite.

It is in the film's opening scenes and its last 15 minutes that it best finds its rhythm, even if the middle is trying too hard. It begins with a well-worked dream sequence in a flat, involving Andrei Tarkovsky - a sort of aspirational alter ego for young director Lyosha (Kirill Kovbas), who is desperate to shoot something other than commercials. As Tarkovsky moves from room to room, time changes, so one moment he's chatting up a woman by regaling her with the plot of Solaris, the next he's mixing a flaming cocktail in a coffee mug, until the sounds of the Lyosha's real world begin to break in.

Back there, in his flat, Vitalik (Danila Yakushev) is trying to get the rent together before their landlady kicks them in between getting into trouble with his girlfriend Lenka (Ksenia Zueva), while  Denya (Michael Troynik) is about to discover his ex, Fima, on the doorstep claiming she is pregnant. In short, there's a busy day ahead, which will include another friend, Roma (Semyon Barkov), haplessly attempting to get drugs from a drop near the Kremlin and a row on a lake and a nighbclub.

Wheels turn within wheels in Kamynin's film, who not content with dream sequences, also includes a film within a film (an advert really but not from Lyosha's perspective) and a fair smattering of on-screen text messages. Absurdity is rife, but the director is firing in so many directions that he finds it hard to stay on target. There is some commentary about the oligarchy and plenty of sly subversion regarding sexual politics - the lads' unexpected encounter on the lake is a high point - but the film never quite achieves the laughs it is looking for. Kamynin certainly has no shortage of ideas, many of them worth exploring - but it would be good if he didn't try to fit every single one of them in one film next time so that the rest of them, and us, have time to breathe.

Reviewed on: 27 Nov 2019
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The adventures of three friends in Moscow.

Director: Aleksei Kamynin

Starring: Michael Troynik, Danila Yakushev, Kirill Kovbas, Ekaterina Ageeva, Ksenia Zneva

Year: 2019

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Russia


Black Nights 2019

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