Nirvana (2008)

Yesterday I saw a movie called Nirvana at the Brussels Film Festival. It was one of the last screenings and might be up for a public choice award. Which it deserves. But that depends. There were people who left during the viewing. I don’t know why. They read the synopsis in the festival brochure, didn’t they? So they knew what they were up for… apparently not.

It’s a Russian film directed by Igor Voloshin. With Olga Sutulova, Marya Shalaeva, Artur Smolyaninov, Mikhail Evlanov, Andrey Khabarov, Dmitry Itskovich, Vladimir Sorokalita, Tatyana Samoylova.

Alisa, a nurse or doctor (I didn’t get that entirely, but she was a nurse at least), is bored of her life in Moscow and chooses to move to Saint Petersburg. She finds herself an appartment, a very filthy and shady one, which she has to share with a junkie couple: Valera (also called Dead Man for some reason) and his girlfriend Vel, who’s a bartender.

Pretty soon, Alisa and Dead Man take comfort with each other while Vel works late night shifts. I’ll go to the point: they are sleeping together. When Vel finds out, she sets out to teach the new nurse a lesson and sends some tough guy to teach it to her. But Alisa is not a girl who just lets that happen, she defends herself. Upset and angry, in return she reports Vel to the police. (Why precisely, I have forgotten). Vel is so angry when she gets out of the police station that she rushes home to physically assault that damn girl who sleeps with her guy and reported her to the police.
So you can imagine how toxic the envirment is in that appartment from then on.

But one night, while Dead Man is appartently cheating out of house for a change, Vel takes some badly cut drugs and Alisa has to rush in to save the girls life. From then on, they grow closer and start leaning about each other. About the background they shared in Moscow, during their childhood in the Soviet time.

When Dead Man still doesn’t come home, it becomes a bit worrysome. Especially when Vel receives a package with one of his fingers in it. It seems that Dead Man ran into deep depts to get his drugs and now they want him to pay. Seeing he can’t, his girlfriend Vel is supposed to do it. Together with Alisa, they go off to collect $10 000 to get him back in almost one piece.

The pace of the movie is very variated. Some scenes are hand-camera filmed and a bit out of focus, moves a lot. Other scenes are steady and long. It’s almosed like a video clip at times. They played with some interesting scene cuts. Sometimes you almost get a déjà vu like feeling when they cut sometimes a second before an action and then back to just before, so you get a feeling of clear voyant images.

I liked the fact they experiented with the costumes and make-up. Although some over the top, it worked with the settings and it gave it a timeless feel. You could not pinpoint when the story played out. It seems contemporary, but has some punk looks as well. And it gave it an edge. Like something unseen before.

For me, the edgyness and rawness was what made me kick. The characters, especially Vel, were inviting and interesting. I recommend this. Are you up for it?

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