By Aldo Padilla
Being a non-recognized artist in one’s time is something that has been dragged as a curse for the most part of many transgressive creators in their times. Many circumstances are fruit of a political or repressive context, but most of the time this is related to the incomprehension of editors, critics and public in general. Sergei Dovlatov is one of those figures that only in the exterior could be really appreciated in the nineties. This and his early death mythicized even more his image.
Alekei German Jr. strays out of his usual oneiric cinema with a film that explores the figure of the poet. Dovlatov isn’t a usual biopic, since it only portrays a week in the life of the writer. But those seven days are enough to understand the frustration and wit of the poet, who watched as his talent progressively diluted among requests and commissions that went against his nature. In any moment are the verses of Dovlatov read in an explicit way, but in the small details of his personality and rhetoric one can perceive the acuteness of his intellect, and overall, and overflowing imagination in a limited environment.
German’s style can be seen in every shot of the film, in the long sequences with the poet and other characters making jokes, seeking for his attention. German feels a little more domesticated, without this oneiric craziness characteristic of his previous works. This film is less risky, but in no way this complex portrayal in film is less of a merit.
The constant contradiction of the film is how everything gravitates towards Dovlatov and at the same time, how his work is ignored. German’s construction is 100% dependent from its protagonist, since every actor that appears has a connection with the poet, and its understood that in some moment, a little gesture or some invisible character will have an interaction with Sergei, while his short stories and poems will be rejected again and again. His omnipresence reminds us of the titanic work of his father Hard to be a God, where the god of this medieval world wondered around waiting for the praise of his subjects. In the same way the poet is questioned, seduced, and seek after in every moment of the film.
All Russia and its literary culture seem to be condensed in this strange 70’s, and near to the end of the film a sort of coronation is realized, closing a brilliant film that responds to this Russian style so defined in this last years.
Director: Alexey German Jr.
Script: Alexey German Jr., Tupikina
Cast: Milan Maric, Danila Kozlovsky, Helena Sujecka, Artur Beschastny, Elena Lyadova, Anton Shagin,
Svetlana Khodchenkova, Piotr Gasowski, Eva Gerr, Hanna Sleszynska
Cinematography: Lukasz Zal
Editing: Sergey Ivanov, Darya Gladysheva
Producers: Andrey Savelyev, Artem Vasilyev, Konstantin Ernst