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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Loznitsa's Documentaries.

The general release of Sergei Loznitsa's В Тумане (In the Fog) in the UK has been greeted with some extremely positive reviews- such that some journalists like Jonathan Romney in the Independent  were to lament that his earlier feature film Счастье Мое (My Joy) hadn't been released in the UK. Surely an even greater regret is that few of his documentary films have been shown in the UK (with the possible exception of his edited film of the Siege of Leningrad Блокада (The Blockade).

A number of his films are available on youtube and similar channels and the good thing about a Loznitsa documentary for a foreign-language viewer is that they are often dialogue-less. Victoria Belopolskaya in one article noted how they undergo strange somersaults of titles and meanings. A film made up of portraits is entitled Landscape, whereas a film trying to render a landscape is entitled Portraits. 

Loznitsa is no advocate of social documentary. In an interview he stated that "I am against any deep intervention in reality. I am in favour of observing it. When a director starts actively trying to work on reality he obtains something completely other than that which reality could have offered him"
He finds himself working with principles far removed from those of Rastorguev highlighted in his manifesto and yet has worked with Rastorguev's constant partner, Pavel Kostomarov, most notably on the extraordinary film Полустанок (Whistlestop).

Yet as Mikhail Yampolsky has noted Sergei Loznitsa in his work has tried to redraw boundaries between documentary and feature films whereas in the work of many other film-makers such as the above-mentioned Rastorguev those barriers have often been worn thin. Loznitsa's refusal to narrate in his documentaries and his exploration of space (the spaces of villages abandoned by modernity or completely out of place train stations) doesn't allow us a glimpse of the inner world of his subjects (and his lack of interest in the psychology or the inner world of his documentary subjects have left him open to accusations of coldness). Yet they are nonetheless extraordinary documents.

Loznitsa's extraordinary compilation of scenes from the Leningrad Siege (possibly from the censored scenes of the Battle of Leningrad, according to one reviewer of the film, Polina Barskova) seems to prove an exception to much of Loznitsa's other work. Yet even here he is recording this space gouged away from modernity with his extraordinary portrait of the transformation of the Leningrad tram. Space and time stood still is central int his film too.


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