4. 7. 2005
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ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
5. 7. 2005

Karlovy Vary Film Festival:

Delicate relations painted intricately

As part of the 'Na Východ od Západu' section of the Competition, the film Udalennij dostup (Remote Access/ Na dálku) (Russia, 2004) was shown on Monday evening at the Karlovy Vary film festival. Written and directed by Svetlana Proskurina, the film tells of a family turned upside down when, after a boat accident, father and son are separated from mother and daughter. Some years have passed, and the two halves of the family are living separately, each unaware of the whereabouts of the other.

The two generations of the family are also dealing with the disaster and separation in very different ways. The parents have apparently attempted to bury what has happened and move on, and neither seem to be particularly desperate to find the other. The mother, Vera, revealingly says to her daughter, "You know, when I lose something, I just stop looking for it. That way it's like I don't need it anymore."

And this approach causes them to be rather hysterical as their feelings suddenly burst free. However, while the parents' greater years make them try to avoid turmoil that they might not have to suffer, their children are somewhat curious, particularly the son, Seryozha, and are connected by a stronger bond. (After all, they are tied by blood, while their parents only by marriage.)

The film shows use of sensitively executed characterisation, with the characters' psychologies being revealed gradually, and by subtle gestures. Vera holds herself up straight , and has made an effort to try and continue with her life, and she chides her daughter, Zhenya, then appearing strong. However, we soon see that under her attempts to move on from what has happened, she is crumbling inside. Meanwhile, Zhenya is honest about her feelings, and though physically and emotionally frail, which causes her to be cold, she does not have the same outbursts as her mother.

Vera has a new man in her life, the businessman Timofei. He is a bulky man, heavy and obstinate, though kind. It is clear that she has chosen him for his ability to act as a support for her and take care of her. (In a dinner scene near the beginning of the film, they quarrel, and when he goes to leave, she tries to tear his jacket out of his hands, crying out and in the end wrapping herself around his leg. She also says on another occasion, while resting her head on his belly, "I am your dog. Pet me." ) Small details littered throughout give the events and characters credibility. Zhenya draws our attention to Timofei's disfigured hand when she asks about it one evening. His index finger is unsually bent due to an inherited disease, but his hand also has a lasting injury from a childhood fall. No doubt Vera and Zhenya like this peculiarity in him, as thus he is imperfect, like them, despite being such a strong figure, and they can relate to him as well as lean on him.

This situation of separation and uncertainty is brought to its crisis by a series of events begun by Zhenya taking a job working as a phone sex operator. Seryozha calls the line (his friend Igor is always encouraging him to go out and meet girls) and instantly he and Zhenya are mysteriously enchanted by one another. (Seryozha had said earlier to Igor, "I know her voice, I know what it would sound like now.") Their exchanges are not natural and flowing, but there is true affection between them. Their words are detached, but apparently more than that is not needed. The film is full of relationships that, though deeply close, are detached, be it because of painful events, or physical and lasting separation. Neither of the children get on well with their parents -- the children perhaps feel hostility towards their parents for being the only one of the family that remained with them and also for attempting to bury the past, but also, their inability to function well in the world caused by the distress at the accident makes their parents frustrated with them.

This universal discord forms Proskurina's treatment of the idea of family and ties between its members. The former love which apparently existed has been torn by this disaster. Now the only warmth in their lives is between members of the family and outsiders, not between the relatives themselves: Seryozha and his friend Igor, Vera and Timofei, as well as Zhenya and Timofei.

Proskurina also underlines the delicate nature of the situation, and of the relationships between people. This is mirrored in the cinematography in the use of pale colours -- beige, cold slate blue, light brown, grey, and also intricate and detached, but haunting music, and the setting. Admittedly, Russia is traditionally a land of snow, but the bleakness of the weather adds to the bleak atmosphere, as does the fine dusting of snow on the ground. This gentle sprinkling reminds us of the delicate nature of events. And the newfound affection between Seryozha and Zhenya turns out to be as ephemeral as this thin snow, and melts not long after it began. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Seryozha is killed, in the only violent and strong occurrence of the film, when his friend's car, that he has just got into, explodes. An estate agent working on a very sensitive and important deal, Igor was being watched by the competition, and they had decided to use sabotage to rid themselves of other bidders.

This sudden and tragic event in fact resolves the situation in the film. Zhenya and her mother can finally move on from the accident. Shortly before the explosion Seryozha had sent his sister a picture of himself, revealing his identity to her, though he did not believe her to actually be his long lost sister. And so years of imagination and speculation are brought to an end as Zhenya has found her lost brother, and he has died, closing the book on their relationship forever. And it is a good thing that Seryozha died before he and his sister ever managed to meet. This way, those who remain can feel the deal is finished, while still retaining all the idealised notions that they will have created about the family members that they had not seen for so many years. In fact, we wonder if they ever really did want to meet. They both postponed it terribly, even before knowing for certain who they were, and Seryozha even said, after remarking that Zhenya sounded "like my sister would sound now", that he did not know if he wanted to see them, and then firmly said, "No."

This film deals effectively and subtly with the nature of family relations -- the strength of bonds between people, and the way that love and frustration can be so close by each other. At the end of the film, Zhenya and Vera are, at first tentatively, but then sincerely, reunited. After doubt is removed, they can return to living their lives alongside each other. The film though also questions the ways that one would deal with a crisis such as this one. At the end of the day, the harmony at the end of the film is eventually brought about by Zhenya and Seryozha's active desire to find each other, and until then, both the parents were living a great deal more unhappily than their children.

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