Honfleur Festival: the tragedy on the Russian borders

The 29th edition of the Norman cinematographic meeting dedicated to Russian films ended on November 28. The jury, chaired by Swiss actress Marthe Keller, awarded several films whose common point is darkness.

How to cross Russia from West to East and from North to South, sweeping its eleven time zones, discovering the immensity of its plains, the majestic harshness of its mountains, the sharp and complete character of its people?

This privilege is not reserved for the lucky ones who can embark for months of travel, with a few weeks in the mythical Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian and stops all along the route, from Moscow to Vladivostok, via the Urals and Siberia: by mooring for a few days in the Seine estuary, in Honfleur, for the Russian Film Festival, from November 23 to 28, several thousand spectators explored Russia in an armchair. Historical films, dramas, comedies, documentaries …

The 2021 program gave an overview of the richness and quality of contemporary Russian cinema. Let us quote, among all these films, the hilarious Rich kid, by Klim Shipenko, huge commercial success in Russia, who tells the story of the misadventures of a son of an oligarch, whom his father tries to cure of his arrogance by sending him, by the magic of a false accident, to Russia from XIXe century, in which he finds himself living the condition of a peasant before the abolition of serfdom; the magnificent documentary Russia seen from the sky, by Freddie Röckenhaus and Petra Höfer (audience award for best documentary film) which reveals landscapes whose vast beauty leaves you speechless and cities inspired by Europe, however so characteristically Russian; the poignant Blockade Journal, in which Andrei Zaïtsev follows the icy journey of a young woman in search of her father, in besieged Saint Petersburg, covered with snow (incredibly reconstituted), where the dead she meets are more numerous than the living, where the ordeal, hunger and cold reveal the depths of people, and what remains of their humanity; the aesthetically virtuoso and hallucinatory work of Kirill Serebrennikov who, in Petrov’s Fever, infects the viewer with the same flu as his character, making him see the same unreal scenes, as funny and absurd as they are bloody, during a night of wandering that begins in a bus and ends up who knows where.

Unlike Leto, his previous film, which he had to finish shooting remotely, due to his house arrest from 2017 to 2019 on a charge of embezzlement, Petrov’s Fever was turned entirely by him. Released in theaters in France on the 1ster December, it was presented in preview in Honfleur by Joël Chapron, specialist in Russian and Central and Eastern European cinema, and author of the dubbing of this film, with the advice of the director to the spectators: “Have a drink before you see it!

“What the selected films show is a terrible individualism, which commands everything and tolerates everything. “

Françoise Schnerb, president of the Friends of the Russian Film Festival association in Honfleur

The films presented in competition this year have one thing in common: to paint the harshness of reality, in the most different contexts. President of the Friends of the Russian Film Festival association in Honfleur, which organizes this Festival, Françoise Schnerb explains the dark side of her selection: “Each year we offer a fairly diverse range of what happens, with comedies, children’s films, classics … with a special mention for comedy Dreams, by Karen Shaknazarov, where a 19th century countess has a nightmare at night that she is a diver in a Soviet canteen, and that her husband, the count, is reduced to making a living as a street vendor of light photos. But for the selection, we choose the most interesting films for an informed public, but they are not necessarily the funniest. The Russian Federation is not going through its most successful period, and it shows in the films of recent years. Violence is exacerbated there, but in Russia it has always existed. What the selected films, works of young directors, the majority of whom are under forty, reveal is a terrible individualism, which commands everything and tolerates everything. The Blockade Journal, by Andrei Zaïtsev, shows a moving scene in which the hungry crowd manages to contain itself so as not to steal the bread intended for the orphanage. We would not necessarily see this leap of humanity in a story today. “

In fact, the four films awarded during this 29th edition of the festival are built like a tragedy, whether family, love or political. In Loose Fists (Grand Prix of the city of Honfleur-Calvados Père Magloire), the young director Kira Kovalenko, trained at the film school of Alexandre Sokourov in Kabardino-Balkaria, reveals the intimate drama of a young woman injured, child, during of the hostage-taking of Beslan, in North Ossetia, living under the influence of a father whom she both loves and hates, for the lack of freedom he makes her suffer. Viktor, the hero of the film Vladivostok, by Anton Bormatov (Audience Award) no longer has parents, is wanted by the police for the involuntary murder of one of his brothers in arms, at the end of his military service, and is in hiding in the port city in the hope of fleeing by sea. When his path crosses that of the eccentric Vika, his life seems to change color, as if transfigured. But maybe it’s a last twist of fate …

After the rolling streets of Vladivostok, beautifully filmed, it is the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, which unroll their snow-covered ribbon as far as the eye can see and serve as the setting for the amorous tragedy which binds Maria, a soldier’s wife, to one of her men. husband. On distant frontiers, by Maksim Dashkin, (Special Jury Prize), a film where we speak little, but where looks and images say everything, shows the power of this cinematographic art, which here assembles the art of the ellipse, the he depth of silence, the beauty of the images despite the harshness of existence. In a completely different style, less aesthetic and more hectic, #Bahut Anna Sayannaya adopts the codes of ultra-connected youth, for better and especially for worse, against the backdrop of a strange love story between a student and her philosophy teacher.

The exceptional quality of many Russian films will always amaze us, yet it is not new: the highlight of the festival, after the awards, a cine-concert, with the impressive musical performance of the violinist Dimitri Artemenko and the pianist Vadim Sher , on the 1928 film, The House in rue Troubnaïa, by Boris Barnet, in which the early genius of the Russians in the field explodes: rhythm, inventiveness, humor, surrealism, emotion, aesthetics …

Official website of the Russian film festival in Honfleur

Trailer of, Loose fists, by Kira Kovalenko, Grand Prize of the Russian Film Festival in Honfleur 2021


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