Sofia Film Fest Preview Opens with Russian 'Stoker'

Culture | February 28, 2012, Tuesday // 12:56|  views

Yakut stoker Ivan Skriabin played by Mikhail Skriabin. Photo by Sofia Film Fest

The early program of the 16th edition of the Sofia Film Fest opens with the movie "Stoker" of famous Russian Director, Aleksey Balabanov.

The film will be shown on Friday, March 2 at the "Cinema House" in Bulgaria's capital.

The official opening of the festival is scheduled for the evening of March 9 at the National Palace of Culture in downtown Sofia, with the movie "Ave" of Bulgarian Director, Konstantin Bozhanov.

For his film Brother (1997) Russian director, screenwriter and producer Balabanov received the Special Jury award at Cottbus. He was awarded with the best director award at Gijon film festival for Cargo 200 (2007) and in Istanbul the jury gave a special award to the film Of Freaks and men (1998).

"Stoker" has received the "White Elephant" award for best movie, director and music in Russia in 2010, and the "Golden Lilly" award from the festival in Wiesbaden.

"The movie tells the story of Yakut stoker Ivan Skriabin (Mikhail Skriabin), who had a stellar military career: he had been a sapper in the Afghan war, a Hero of the Soviet Union, a Major with a chest full of medals. Now, retired from the military with a severe concussion, abandoned by his wife, and barely supported by an uncertain paycheck, he lives alone in his workplace, a vast factory basement where he keeps the furnaces running day and night. He spends his leisure moments sitting on his cot, typing out what he believes to be his own tale of good and evil.

The original story, entitled "Khailakh," had been written many decades earlier by Polish ethnographer Wac?aw Sieroszewski. It is a story that Skriabin had once heard, but now mistakes for his own story, all the more so as it eerily anticipates Skriabin's circumstances, a tale of Russian banditry and Yakut sacrifice. Skriabin has a beloved adult daughter, Sasha. She co-owns a Yakut fur outlet with Masha, Russian daughter of Sergeant, a veteran-turned-gangster. One additional character completes the main cast. Bison, Sergeant's fellow gangster, is Sasha's boyfriend, or so she believes. In fact, Bison is the lover of both women, though neither knows of the other's liaison.

Balabanov is often considered a divisive figure. I belong to those who consider him a genius, but it is not my primary intent here to plead that case. The film may reasonably be described in two incompatible ways. It is a gory crime drama, post-Tarantino cinema, fixated on the most horrific aspects of human bestiality, rendered in excruciating detail by the same director who had earlier graced us with Cargo 200, and before that Blind Man's Bluff, Brother, and Brother 2. As in previous films, the setting is a deteriorated, late twentieth-century Russia. As ever, a feral masculinity dominates the dialogue, plot, and visual detail. As ever, the main supporting actor is the corpse. At the same time, however, a second interpretation would quite adequately describe Stoker as tender-hearted to the point of sentimentality, Balabanov's most lyrical film to date. Infused with fairytale humor and childlike simplicity, the film exudes innocence in its wide-eyed account of two scary stories: the one that is screened and the one that is typed," film critic Nancy Condee writes.

In addition to "Stoker," the early program of Bulgaria's largest film event includes Bulgarian movies, key movies from the so-called Romanian new wave cinema and from the special movie festival of the European Parliament LUX.

Sofia Film Fest closes on March 18th. The main organizer is Stefan Kitanov with Art Fest. The event is held under the patronage of the Sofia City Hall in partnership with the Culture Ministry, the National Film Center and the National Palace of Culture.


Tags: Art Fest, Stefan Kitanov, Sofia Film Fest, National Palace of Culture, Sofia International Film Festival, award, Aleksey Balabanov, movie, film, Stoker, Russian, Sofia Film Fest, Yakut stoker Ivan Skriabin, Mikhail Skriabin

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