By Aldo Padilla
Montage declares, before anything, an idea of intentionality, the idea of showing something according to an artistic or communicational intention. Nowadays, when the term “montage” is used in the media, it is generally referred to a trap that seeks to manipulate a segment of society. Governments with a totalitarian tendency are experts in constructing parallel realities, both to reaffirm the loyalty of its followers and to intimidate its opponents. The communicational montages that are built or denounced pretend to hide the root problems of their dubious regimes.
Sergei Loznitsa’s third film in this year, closes a year where he has exploited different facets as a filmmaker: the social contemplation in Victory day, the political fiction in Donbass and the recovery of found footage in The Trial, film that allows itself to make a double montage game. Here Loznitsa gives shape to the found film archives of one of the first Stalinist trials perpetrated in the 30’s, a trial against the self-proclaimed Industrial Party which served as a rehearsal of the judicial machinery that would devastate its opponents at the end of the decade, with the so-called Great Purge.
The Trial is an exercise of intrinsic sobriety, procedures and judicial language, with no big transcendent lines, and reducing the declarations to a constant mea culpa from the accused and a strange fascination of the people filling the court. It’s a strange exercise of containment which is totally uncovered when the people rally through the streets to celebrate the defeat of the supposed conspirators and instigates the judges to give the capital punishment. This shows that Stalinist terror actually worked as propaganda of the regime, when installing in the people the idea that any enemy of the revolution must be punished.
The arguments of the accused are based in convoluted processes of sabotage, where the idea of how a small technical organized group can dismantle the industrial apparatus of a country. The pledge for mercy and resignation of the accused is confronted with the severity of the prosecutor and the incisive questions by the judges, creating a choreographic sensation, since all the discourses are developed without doubts or hesitations from the accused, and the forcefulness of the guilt that accentuates itself in the environment, while the shadow of the death penalty becomes bigger.
If the spoiler isn’t something that shouldn’t be considered in history, the shock is evident when confronting the final twist that is presented in form of texts, where one finds out that the accused were part of this montage and the sentences that condemned them were never executed as such. The sensation of a montage of a bigger scale brings us to the idea of infinite montage that still works in today’s Russia, where the detentions of filmmakers Oleg Sentsov y Kiril Serebrennikov pose a state whose judicial apparatus is totally corrupt, something which is portrayed in fiction by Zvyagintsev in Leviathan: a giant monster that consumes it all.
Director: Sergei Loznitsa