Thursday, June 15, 2023

Stshastje moje / My Joy (in the presence of Sergei Loznitsa)

Sergei Loznitsa: Счастье моё / Stshastje moje / My Joy (DE/UA/NL 2010).

DIRECTOR: Sergei Loznitsa
COUNTRY: Saksa, Ukraina, Alankomaat
YEAR: 2010
DURATION: 128 min
LANGUAGES: venäjä / tekstitetty englanniksi
ORIGINAL NAME: Счастье моё (Schastye moe)
CATEGORY: Sergei Loznitsa, Special Guests' Films, Subtitles in English
In the presence of Sergei Loznitsa, hosted by Kaisu Isto.
Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 15 June 2023.

Mia Öhman (MSFF 2023): "A body is pushed in a ditch, a mixer-full of cement splashed on top. A bulldozer finishes the operation, rolling its tracks over the anonymous man’s anonymous grave, returning him to the ground, for unto dust we shall all return. After this, our protagonist, a truck driver called Georgy, drives along a scenic road while a schlager about war sacrifices plays on the radio, instantly bringing to mind Aleksei Balabanov (1959–2013), whose films featured nasty bursts of repressed violence. Loznitsa’s fiction debut advances with time jumps, yet intuitively smoothly intertwines into a cohesive whole, bearing a kinship to the oeuvre of Alain Resnais, who also started as a documentarian.

My Joy was filmed in Ukraine and features Russian dialogue. This road movie gradually picking up horror elements is a provocation, a journey into Russianness pieced together from real stories, its brutal Soviet past oozing cold sweat through decades to the present day. From the start, an ominous atmosphere fills the air at a police checkpoint – perhaps real, perhaps not.

Georgy’s journey continues, and the characters appearing from the roadside to hitch a ride lead him on a chilling tour into the visionless and timelessly stagnant mental landscape. The story is already metaphorically laid out in the introduction: the anonymous dead is a part of the common land, the common history – the common nightmare." Mia Öhman

AA: Sergei Loznitsa's fiction feature debut about the truck driver Georgi (Viktor Nemets) might evoke parallels with Vasili Shukshin's feature debut There Lives Such a Lad, but it soon turns out that they are diametrical opposites.

The title My Joy ("My Happiness") is an expression of irony of the blackest kind.

This road movie is an account of a descent in Hell, never far from horror. It is a history of brutalization, corruption and prostitution. A parallel work in Loznitsa's oeuvre is Krotkaya / A Gentle Creature (another title of extreme irony).

My Joy is a vision of society, a portrait of the destruction of civil society. The social contract is dead. The government is corrupt, the civil society is moribund. There is no hope for revival.

The only decent person is Georgi, but after a brutal assault and robbery, he becomes braindead, a walking dead, like a zombie. Along his odyssey there is a fleeting encounter that comes into the territory of Tolstoy's Resurrection, a Katyusha / Nekhlyudov exchange, but this underage Katyusha is as evil as everyone else.

Powerfully shot, with an epic map of human faces telling volumes about wasted lives, casual brutality, escapism into victories of the past and sentimental romances.

Ultimately, there is no Gegenbild.

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