The past year marked a real breakthrough for Russian cinema. “Unclenching the Fists” (2021) by Kira Kovalenko won the “Un Certain Regard” category at the Cannes Film Festival and received an award from the European Film Academy. ‘Compartment No. 6’ (2021), a co-production with Finland, not only won the Grand Prix at Cannes, but was also nominated for an Oscar. And a really big event was director Klim Shipenko’s flight into space with actress Yulia Peresild in the main role of his film “The Challenge”. The film, much of which was shot during the real space expedition, is not due for release until 2023. Still, the coming year promises many high-profile premieres. Russia Beyond has selected six of the most intriguing major films, plus four festival hits that audiences around the world will finally get to see.
1. ‘Woland’, director Mikhail Lockshin
Mikhail Lockshin/Mars Media, Amedia Production, Profit, 2022
The second work by Mikhail Lockshin and screenwriter Roman Kantor is based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s cult novel, “The Master and Margarita”. Their first movie, “Silver Skates” (2020), was released on Netflix Originals in 2021 and reached Netflix’s Top 10 list.
The novel mysteriously intertwines the stories of Roman prosecutor Pontius Pilate, Moscow poet Ivan Bezdomny, a “naughty apartment” in Moscow, and the mysterious stranger, Professor Woland, who turns out to be more powerful than Goethe’s Faust.
German actor August Diehl in Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life’ (2019), portrays Woland and the Russian film industry’s most beautiful couple, Evgeny Tsyganov and Yuliya Snigir, best known for her role in ‘The New Pope’ ( 2019- 2020) with Jude Law, play the Master and Margarita respectively.
2. ‘December’, director Klim Shipenko
Klim Shipenko/Yellow, black and white, 2022
Just days before becoming the world’s first filmmaker to go into space, Klim Shipenko managed to complete a thriller about the last days of famous poet Sergei Yesenin’s life and his relationship with dancer Isadora Duncan.
The film features a snowy St. Petersburg, the dark atmosphere of the turbulent 1920s in Soviet Russia, conspiracy theories, imperishable manuscripts that don’t burn, and blond Alexander Petrov – star of the TV series ‘Sparta’ (2018) and Fyodor Bondarchuk’s ‘Attraction’ (2017) (both available on Netflix), as well as Luc Besson’s ‘Anna’ (2019) – as the most tragic poet to rave on Russian soil.
3. ‘Nuremberg’, director Nikolai Lebedev
Nikolai Lebedev/Film production, 2022
It is the first feature film in the world to tell the detailed story of the 20th century trial in which the former leaders of Nazi Germany appeared before the International Military Tribunal.
Directed by Nikolai Lebedev, one of Russia’s most sought-after film directors, who helmed ‘Legend No. 17’ (2013) and ‘Flight Crew’ (2016) (both available on Netflix). According to Lebedev, the film will not only be a chronicle of momentous trials, but also a true love story.
4. ‘The First Oscar’, director Sergey Mokritsky
Sergey Mokritsky/Central Partnership, Novye Lyudi, 2022
Another historical drama inspired by real events, it tells the story of the frontline cameramen of World War II. They shot on the battlefield at the beginning of the war, and in 1943 received the first Oscar for best documentary feature – “Moscow Strikes Back” (1942).
Starring is Tikhon Zhiznevskiy, the eponymous Major Grom in “Major Grom: Plague Doctor” (2021), an action thriller based on the comic book series of the same name, which had a successful release on Netflix.
5. ‘Free Fall’, director Oleg Urazaykin
Press Service of the Russian Ministry of Culture
Of course, films in Russia are not only about war, but also about space. And not just in space itself. For example, a film by debut director Oleg Urazaykin that was shot in the studio is due out soon. There’s only one actor in the frame – Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who played Helmut in ‘Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets’ (2022).
In ‘Free Fall’, his character is sent to carry out repairs on an orbital station, but, following an accident, he finds himself alone in space. His only connection to Earth is Air Operations Controller Anna. He must save her, as well as himself.
6. ‘Land of Legends’, director Anton Megerdichev
Anton Megerdichev/Star Media, 2022
If ‘Free Fall’ is Russia’s answer to ‘Gravity’ (2013), ‘Land of Legends’ is clearly in contention for the title of Russia’s ‘Game of Thrones’. The main role here is also played by Aleksandr Kuznetsov, while Anton Megerdichev directs.
The film is a screen adaptation of a novel by one of Russia’s most famous contemporary writers – Alexei Ivanov. The action takes place in the 15th century, when the Grand Prince of Moscow sends invaders into the Urals in the hope of annexing the unruly lands of Perm.
7. “Captain Volkogonov has escaped”, directors Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov
Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov/Mesto Sily, WATCH THE FILM, Homeless Bob Production, Kinovista, 2022
This festival hit, which premiered during the main competition in Venice in 2021, has just been prepared for a national and international release. The lead role here is played by Yuriy Borisov – from ‘Compartment No. 6’ (2021) and ‘Silver Skates’ (2020), as well as the upcoming Russian series for Netflix Originals, ‘Nothing Special’.
Its main protagonist wants to find a way to heaven after his death. But the problem is that, as far as he can remember, he created hell for everyone. He served in the notorious NKVD without acknowledging the harm he was doing.
Directors Merkulova and Chupov, who so far have explored fears of death on a personal, non-societal level in “The Man Who Surprised Everyone” (2018), describe the nature of the NKVD and the fallout from the “Red Terror” in the most graphic way. The film has already won Best Screenplay at the Russian Kinotavr Film Festival and nominations for the National Golden Eagle Film Award.
8. ‘In Limbo’, director Aleksandr Khant
Aleksandr Khant/Perevorot Film Company, 2022
This Russian version of ‘Euphoria’, based on real events, has so far only been screened at a few festivals, notably in Warsaw, where it won the FIPRESCI Young Jury Prize and received rave reviews from its main target audience, teenagers. The coming-of-age story has a timeless, lost-in-time feel, with visual echoes of Soviet cinema and decidedly modern music tracks of the TikTok variety.
But, the bottom line is the ever-relevant story. Whether it’s more Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde is up to the viewer.
9. “No turning back”, director Kirill Sokolov
Kirill Sokolov/Saga Film Company, Metrofilms, 2022
This second work from the director of ‘Why Don’t You Just Die!’ (2018), which received excellent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, is devoted – as fully befitting the spirit of the times – to women and, more specifically, to three generations of theoretically free women living in Russian villages. , where the hit of the season is not just orange, but red.
As in Sokolov’s previous film, relatives – in this case, blood relatives – are in a life-and-death struggle. Favorite references to Quentin Tarantino, Korean thrillers and even the Cohen brothers are offered.
10. ‘Fairy Tale’, director Alexander Sokurov
This enigmatic new project is from Russia’s best-known overseas director, who hasn’t directed a feature film since 2011’s ‘Faust’, which won a Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival- the. The film deals with the heavy subject matter of World War II, but it’s a fantastic tale. This is an unusual move for Sokurov, who in his filmography relies on real historical events or literary sources. Just remember his Tetralogy of Power – “Moloch” (1999), “Bull” (2001), “The Sun” (2005) and “Faust” (2011), in which the director portrayed Hitler, Lenin, Hirohito and Faust himself.
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