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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Wandering Into a Strange Russian Movie Syndrome

Over the weekend I decided to take a trip to the National Gallery in DC. I went with my friend Evelina, a multimedia student at American University, and a native of Lithuania. The day started off rather odd. There were two highly excitable Russian men on the 'Metpo' who were talking very excitedly in Russian. Evelina, of course, has a very heavy Lithuanian accent. After quickly moving through the Renaissance we headed into the East Wing, where we made fun of the Russian Mark Rothko. We decided then to wander into whatever short flick they were showing in the auditorium nearby. Over two hours later, it dawned on me that I had just witnessed something very strange. That something was Kira Muratova's The Asthenic Syndrome.

Muratova, the film's director, said in 1990 that, 'Every time I am asked what the film is about, I reply, quite honestly, "It's about everything."' I'd agree that that's a pretty fair assessment. After 40 minutes of a black and white film within a film, the movie suddenly segways into the lives of several very strange individuals. 'Asthenia' is the word for loss of strength, which makes sense when you see what all of the characters in the movie go through. They alternate back and forth between detachment and passivity to extreme aggressiveness. At one point the hero of the film falls asleep on the 'Metpo' due to his detachment. But at other times there is a lot of violence (not much real heavy violence, more the slapping around kind). Thrown in are some little bits about animal abuse and the like.

Overall I suppose it was a very good film. Excellent for describing post-Communist Russia, but also a very good (or bad) commentary on the human condition. I just found it very odd that the one time I walk into the theatre I see that exact film at that exact time. It may be the last time its played in DC for quite awhile, but I certainly hope not.

And, of course, the whole ride back home I listened to the banter of two very irate Ukrainian men. The boy from Texas felt out of place.


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