Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Zerograd (1988 film)

Zerograd (also known as Gorod Zero) is a 1988 Soviet film, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov and starring Leonid Filatov.

I stumbled across this movie whilst searching for more Soviet science fiction, and I am glad that I watched it, as it had a distinct, but intangible, effect on me.

The story revolves around an engineer (played by Filatov) who journeys from Moscow to a small town on business. Once there, he is confronted by a series of strange events, many of which take place after he witnesses a suicide.

Zerograd has a surreal and disorientating flavour to it, but it is also quite absorbing. The fact that it was made in 1988 in the Soviet Union will mean that people (including myself) will perhaps look for messages which are not really there.  In fact, the beauty of this picture is that it does not make simplistic or direct social observations, and it works on more than one level.

There is a scene in a museum which is perhaps central to an attempt at understanding this film, and this portion of the film is both philosophically fascinating and technically admirable, as well as being amusing.  Also, there is at one point a monologue by the town prosecutor, and this is also perhaps key to ascertaining what the writers were getting at.

A word of praise too for the performance of Leonid Filatov in the role of Varakin, the engineer.  He endearingly conveys a mixture of confusion, impatience, ennui and bewilderment.

Overall, I found Zerograd to be a powerful, fascinating and absorbing film.  It is one of those films which will probably continue to pose questions and tax the viewer's imagination on repeated viewings;quite a rare feat for any film, I would say.  One just has to watch the picture and draw one's own conclusions.

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