Eye For Film >> Movies >> Scarecrow (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
There have been a number of films in recent years from the far northern Russian republic of Yakutia that blend folkloric elements with their drama, including Ága and The Lord Eagle, and now Dmitrii Davydov's Scarecrow joins the emerging trend.
Set in the depths of winter, this is a chilly character study with a strong primal atmosphere that hinges on the intense central performance from Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyray, an award-winning singer in her homeland and who, if there is any justice, should pick up more film roles on the back of this. Muffled in layer upon layer of jumpers and coat, she plays the "scarecrow" of the title.
Like many women who have been considered "healers" down the ages in cultures across the globe, she is paradoxically treated as a pariah in the small town where she lives at the same time as regularly finding people on her doorstep looking for medical help. Davydov retains an air of mystery of exactly how the healing works, often shooting the healer at work from an angle that crops off much of what she is doing, although it's clear that helping others comes at a personal cost to herself.
By withholding detail and encouraging the viewer to fill in the gaps from the start, Davydov not only avoids the need for any costly special effects but also ensures we commit fully to what is happening and, as more of the healer's life is revealed, our sympathies mount. While having the feel of a folkloric yarn, the director also offers a scathing assessment of the carelessness of a society that ignores the heavy toll its demands on the healer are taking.
Following healing sessions, she is often heard retching - this element also mostly left off screen for our imaginations to do the work - and spends her free time apparently self-medicating with bottles of vodka. The healing element remains intriguing, while Davydov also leavens in a smattering of absurdist humour and a touch of the poetic, courtesy of a kyrympa - a sort of basic Yakutian violin - that becomes a mystical motif in the story. The framing is also inventive throughout, notable not just in the clever cropping but also in a beat-down scene that happens from afar or in another healing session where the heart of the action is confined to the reflection in a mirror.
In Davydov's film, what is unseen is always at least as important as what is in direct view, the pagan just a breath away from the present.Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2021