Review: Russian films/Russian literature“Do you still feel connected to life on Earth?”
“Your question is banal!”
Coming straight from watching Tarkovsky’s sci-fi masterpiece*/interminable drivel** Solaris at the fascist NFT (no popcorn, no ads, no trailers, people who sit through the entire credits), I can confirm once and for all that Russians are pleasantly mental. Does Vladimir want a cup of tea? No he does not, for his very soul is on fire. Could Svetlana quickly pop to the shops for a bag of flour? Don’t be ridiculous: she’s upstairs finishing an epic poem on the subject of religious war.
Any country that has cornered the market on novels, suffering and vodka shots is all right by me. Imagine another version of history, in which Hollywood had somehow sprung up in Moscow instead of LA. Your local Odeon would offer a Sunday night choice between a road movie (an alcoholic philosopher travels across an endless autumnal wasteland in search a series of doppelgangers of his late mother: 175 minutes), and a sci-fi blockbuster (a coruscating analysis of the destructive power of greed set in a dystopian future populated by silent women in heavy eye make-up: 234 minutes).
Tolstoy, widely considered highbrow, was in fact writing the 19th century Russian equivalent of the WHSmith bonkbuster. Had they had the technology, his name would have been embossed in gold on the covers of his books. If, in the process, he touches on the nature of love and the meaning of existence, it just goes to show the level of effortless profundity that your average famous Russian novelist can reach. Dan Brown has much to learn.
Russian poet Anna Akhmatova famously (bear with me) wrote Requiem after a conversation at the gates of Leningrad prison, where her son was incarcerated. A woman recognised her and asked her, “Can you describe this?” Leaving aside the historical context, OK, because I’m not qualified to comment, can you imagine anywhere else where someone would (a) recognise a poet in the street, and (b) care? No you cannot. That’s why Russians are ace.
*Ingmar Bergman, director
**Geoff Andrew, criticRussian films/literature: All happy countries are alike; each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way. 9 out of 10.