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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pavel Lungin's 'Tsar' & the religious plague in recent Russian filmmaking

I have yet to see Lungin's new film 'Tsar' although I am very curious to see Oleg Yankovsky in his final role and, of course, a film on Ivan the Terrible by a notable director is interesting in itself given how one can then go on to compare the film to Eisenstein's classic. It seems that Lungin is returning to a religious theme even in this film and it will be interesting to find out in what way Lungin is representative of an apparent religious revival. From reading a review or two of Lungin, of course, is unlikely to be a simple case of straight ideologist for Russian Orthodox Nationalism and he seems to be wary of tying religiosity with a strong state ideology (I guess one should be thankful for small mercies).

And yet... Frederick Jameson in an article on Soviet Magic Realism written in the late eighties already mentioned this return of religion in his article on Sokurov's 'Days of Eclipse' and presciently slammed a return to 'religious trendiness'. Jameson's 1988 footnote (or as he puts it a short 'diatribe') on this tendency now, alas, is deserving of a lengthy study. Apart from Lungin another two films Khotinenko's 'Priest' (Pop) amd Proshkin's 'Miracle' (Chudo) are evidence that this inclusion of the odd scene has become a veritable flood. Indicative of a sea change.

Andrei Plakhov has written about this subject recently and places it in a context of trends in European cinema per se. Here is the link to the article in Russian.

In any case, there are some directors (thankfully in my view) who remain distant from this plague of religiosity and are a healthy antidote. To my mind Kira Muratova is the most shining example (and in the films of Aleksei German there also seems a healthy absence of 'a religious point of view'). Regrettably he, unlike Muratova, has been notably silent in the last decade.

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