Kislorod -- A breath of fresh air

9. 7. 2009 / Ema Čulík

What's interesting about film is the fact that it is made of several other genres. You could say it's theatre plus photography plus music plus prose or poetry. It combines so many aspects, and there is so much that can be played with. And it's refreshing to see people doing so.

Young Russian theatre director and playwright Ivan Vyrypaev has tried crossing into different genres before. Two years ago his beautiful first foray into film Euforia was shown at KVIFF, and had great success. His recounting of a desperate and lonely love triangle, which on stage would have been closed into a box, in cinema was opened up to the swooping steppes that go on for miles and miles and miles and draw men's eyes out to the horizon and make them dream of what they can't reach. His plays, too, experiment with their own constituent parts.

A Czech version of this article is HERE

His play Kislorod/Oxygen, is based on text. The language is basically colloquial and uses simple words, but he plays with them carefully and wittily -- to great effect.

Let me demonstrate with the "chorus" of the play's first 'Composition'.

"А в каждом человеке есть два танцора: правое и левое. Один танцор - правое, другой - левое. Два легких танцора. Два легких. Правое легкое и левое. В каждом человеке два танцора - его правое и левое легкое. Легкие танцуют, и человек получает кислород. Если взять лопату, ударить по груди человека в районе легких, то танцы прекратятся. Легкие не танцуют, кислород прекращает поступать."

"And in each person there are two dancers: the left and the right. One dancer is right, the other -- left. Two light dancers./ Two lung dancers. Two lungs. The right lung and the left. In each person there are two dancers -- his right and left lung. The lungs dance, and the person gets oxygen. If you take a spade and hit the man's chest around his lungs, then the dancing will cease. The lungs don't dance, and oxygen stops coming."

This chorus is repeated and repeated. Vyrypaev is deconstructing language, seemingly reducing it to gibberish, but the blabbering conceals very subtle play.

Here the joke is based on the fact that 'levij', 'left', can also mean 'strange' or 'inappropriate', (as in Latin 'sinister') and 'right' has the same double meaning as in English -- morally right, and the right hand side.

So a person has a right and left side, and a right and wrong side. Vyrypaev with such a light touch points to the presence of both good and evil in man.

This chorus introduces the question of morality that is examined throughout the play, and also throughout the film of the same name which was presented yesterday here at KVIFF.

Vyrypaev experiments with genre and form, because he understands that each of them is different and has its own specific characteristics. He knows that theatre is immediate and that cinema is more immovable, and yet more abstract. Cinema is set on the big flat screen, we can't reach out and touch the people or feel them breathing the same air as us. He knows that you have to use some other techniques, and that when you make a play and a film of the same material, you have to draw attention to the difference between the two forms.

This is why he transformed his play Kislorod from a 'club performance' which relies on the presence of the actors, into the film Kislorod, which is like visual album of ten music videos.

He introduced his film by saying that he wanted to reduce words to music. Like in the above 'chorus', words are read with great attention to how they sound. And as I have shown, the words seem at the one time to hold no meaning and great meaning.

This works well to tell a story about a young guy who kills his wife, because when they were telling him that one shouldn't kill, he was listening to his personal stereo and didn't hear. And so he killed his wife and ran off with a beautiful red-haired Muscovite. The story is told with each section prefaced by one of the ten commandments, and an interpretation of it which is suitably philosophical, and at the same time follows the cynical and jaded logic of the young generation.

For example:

"Вы слышали, что сказано: не прелюбодействуй? И что: всякий, кто смотрит на женщину с вожделением, уже прелюбодействовал с нею в сердце своем. Представьте, какое огромное сердце должно быть у мужчины, чтобы в нем могли поместиться все женщины, на которых, он смотрит с вожделением? Это, даже, не сердце, а большая двух спальная кровать, простыни, которой, залиты семяизвержениями. "

"You have heard it said that You shall not commit adultery, and that any man who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his own heart. Imagine what an enormous heart a man should have, so that all the women he has looked at with lust might fit into it? That's not even a heart, but a great big double bed, with a sheet stained with sperm."

These religious and moral sayings are transformed, as is all of Vyrypaev's text -- they have no meaning and yet incredible meaning. And Vyrypaev, through this, is examining the value that morality has for young people. We have heard it all so much, that it has lost its force -- just as, if you repeat one word to yourself over and over, it stops having any meaning, but becomes just a strange sound.

So the story of the lovers is set against this background -- youthful selfishness is contextualised. And it's not excused, either.

Along with their little love story in their little world, we are shown that they have a moral responsibility to the world around them. We see the police taking away the body of the young guy's murdered wife, we see the redhead's husband. We see their experience in the context of the whole world. The guy says that he was in the United Arab Emirates with some friends and they snorted heroin and he tore up his passport and went to the market, then realised that he didn't speak Arabic and that he didn't know how to go home. This story is deconstructed, put to questioning, and the composition leads into a meditation on the Middle East, September 11th, and the difference between Islam and Judaism, and the difference between madness and love and mad love. It doesn't suggest answers, it examines the events and our moral judgments and our responsibility to morality -- we, after all, live in the world, too.

And the world imposes itself on the two lovers. They become disillusioned with each other -- she's from a big town, he's from the village of Serpukhov. They're not compatible, or they have nothing but passion, or they don't know what they want, or they are afraid of getting what they want. Love, powerful and wonderful as it is, also goes through this deconstruction.

This film was energetic, raw, provocative, and extremely refreshing. And what was particularly exciting about it was its honesty -- about the fact that love is difficult, the fact that morality is a part of our lives, if we listen to it or not, the fact that we are responsible as humanity for the things that go on in our world, the fact that life contains deep meaning and also deep emptiness.


Obsah vydání | Čtvrtek 9.7. 2009