Stories from Non-Putin Russia
The Station Stop / The Settlement
The Station Stop
dir. Sergei Loznitsa, Russia, 2000, digital, Russian w/ English subtitles, 25 min.
Speeding trains disrupt the silence of a small rail station. The whistle of the locomotive and the thunder of the wheels eventually disappear into the night, failing to wake the sleeping people in the station. What do they wait for? What will wake them up?
dir. Sergei Loznitsa, Russia, 2002, digital, Russian w/ English subtitles, 79 min.
The Settlement is a critically acclaimed, visually arresting documentary about a strange community in the Russian countryside, from renowned documentary filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa. A master of detailed, minimalist observation, Loznitsa introduces us to a rural settlement where the residents are seemingly involved in everyday farm work - harvesting fields, chopping wood, working at a sawmill, maintaining the property. Yet as we watch the workers, we notice strange inconsistencies in their routines - the wood never appears to be cut, the grain never harvested - and it soon becomes apparent that what we are witnessing is neither a farm nor some sort of labor commune. Gradually, we come to understand the workers, are in fact, patients. Their daily chores, though earnestly performed, serve only therapeutic purposes. Suffused with the sounds and rhythm of rural life, The Settlement is an exceptional and enigmatic film. Is this a parable of post - Soviet society? , or is it testament to the importance of nature in our modern lives? With a haunting coda that perhaps hints at an answer, The Settlement is a film that forces us to consider the world in which we live.
STORIES FROM NON-PUTIN RUSSIA
Next year will mark two and a half decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of a new identity for Russia. Leaving behind an era of oligarchs, the country emerged in the 21st century with its super-riches topping the charts of Forbes magazine while its political elite once again began flexing their muscles on the world stage. Remarkably the state of life for the people of Russian provinces is far away from the ambitions of the center.
This eclectic collection of stunning documentaries, rather than dwelling on political and economic issues, reflects on the psychological impact of the change on Russian people. The idea of the province, the local "neighborhood," is the focus. Carefully selected films show that although political tendencies of Russian society have often determined social changes, the province only observes and often pays for them.
Many works are produced by regional, non-central studios by filmmakers from the same social strata as their provincial subjects, betraying both a physical and an emotional distance from the "movers and shakers" of urban society. Interestingly, the series demonstrates above all that today's Russian documentarian inherits a deep sense of the culture and traditions rooted in classical literature, rather than values derived from contemporary cinema and television.