srijeda, 12. veljače 2014.

Artur Aristakisian - Mesto na zemle (2001)

Dostojevski i Beckett snimaju poludokumentarni film.

There are many Aristakisians, actually a palimpsest of Aristakisians, co-existing historically and contemporaneously: one apparently is Aristakisian the anti-social anarchist, part of the down-and-outs whose life he was living and filming for a considerably period in his home-town of Kishinev. The result of this filming was Ladoni, a collection of ten short stories about the life and loves of beggars. At some point in time, Aristakisian the anarchist was apparently for a while Aristakisian the flower-child, peace and sex-loving member of a hippie commune in Moscow, which he went to in order to film his second feature, Mesto na zemlie (Place on Earth, Russia, 2001), a fiction film with non-professional actors, featuring the real members of Aristakisian's commune. - Christina Stojanova 

"A Place On Earth" is a film-parable which explicit existential and philosophical visuals and themes, brilliant study of a man's place on earth (and in universe), complex mixture of religion, philosophy, psychology and myth, along with the great directing from Russian director Aristakisian. Set in Moscow this story is about the Hippie Commune which hosts the homeless, the crippled and the poor with their needs for shelter, warmth, safety and sympathy. People of the commune find love, but that makes them unhappier… The founder of this strange commune makes sacrifice, giving everything of himself, creating "the Temple of Love" to meet the needs of the poor. What can be more humane toward the crippled and the poor than making love with any of them! But the sacrifice is useless; full of internal contradictions the community brakes up leaving its members as lonely and bereaved as before…

Part documentary, part feature film, compelling and deeply disturbing, Artur Aristakisjan's A Place On Earth, is a portrait of a Moscow commune in which squatters, beggars, cripples and the insane become actors in a metaphysical examination of the human need for love and spiritual healing. Six years in the making, the film features only one actor (Khaev) among the cast of Moscow homeless echoing Aristakisjan's 1994 documentary The Palms, which dealt with the homeless in his native Moldavia. However, here they become actors in a poetic drama in the Russian literary tradition, as they follow a Christ-like leader who promises them love but brings them only more suffering. The tough subject matter and frank portrayal of sex will turn off many viewers, making this a hard sell commercially, but like his earlier documentary Palms this film is destined for a wide audience on the global festival circuit and has already been received dozens of invitations.

Aristakisjan has lived on the streets himself and his approach is neither condescending nor sentimental. He has made a film intended as a bridge between the viewer and the social outcasts whose story he weaves into a religious drama.
In the opening scene a mentally disturbed outcast Maria (Verdi) is wandering the streets of Moscow when she finds her saviour in the shape of Johnny, (Khaev) the leader of a commune who takes her in. Johnny, who is determined to change the system by giving love to the unloveable, takes in the homeless and the emotionally and physically damaged, giving them shelter in a squat where he believes they will be healed by sharing their love. The collection of drug addicts, cripples, invalid children, babies, dogs and troubled young people searching to find themselves make up a family that cares for each other.

However, as the community becomes increasingly squalid and dysfunctional, Johnny's ideal of a social order built on love deteriorates into bedlam. In an effort to prove the strength of his beliefs to his followers, Johnny castrates himself in front of them, but his sacrifice is futile, failing to stem the dissolution of the community. The remaining inhabitants of the squat are finally driven out by a brutal police raid leaving them to return to the streets without hope or salvation.
Aristakisjan shot the film on an almost non-existent budget on the Moscow streets, using the ruined former home of The Master And Margarita author Mikhail Bulgakov as the location for the squat. With a camera style that echoes the Dogma manifesto, he manages to create an almost physical contact with reality. The final police raid is based on a real raid on the commune during the shooting which Aristakisjan paid them to return and re-enact so he could catch it on film. Rich in religious imagery but devoid of sentimentality, the scene where the women bathe a hideously deformed cripple and dry him with their hair is ritualistic and freshly contemporary at the same time.
Open sexual intimacy in the claustrophobic environment of the squat throughout the film, especially in scenes in front of children, will limit its audience, as will the unappealing nature of its characters and the subject matter, but the film will be widely appreciated on the global and arthouse festival circuits.

Photographed in black and white, this is a documentary disguised as a poetic, fictional movie. It’s a living nightmare, and it’s hard not to flinch from watching sometimes. The faces of impoverishment – the cripples and the woman who essays Maria in particular – appear to be authentic people culled from the streets, lending this film the earmarks of neo-realism. Audiences might read an anti-authoritarian message into this urban dystopia, but that is a given, we are already in an era of skepticism, witnessing evangelists fall from grace. We can zero in on the failure of systems and forms of government, their suspect infallibility, instead. This is perhaps all about the sorry plight and fiasco of the fledgling post-Soviet democracy, where many are neglected and must organize and fend for themselves. Amid the scatter of lost souls, the contrasting grandeur of the Kremlin skyline at movie’s end bears noting.

Maria, wide-eyed woman wrapped in the regalia of rags, 
what provenance do you come from, bagwoman
who lugs around the refuse of Moscow, limping,
inch by painful inch, on feet festering from gangrene,
about to give out, about to give up on this world?
Take heart, Maria, you whose dignity is laid so low
that you must roam with the cats, lie prone on doorsteps
seeking alms or merely directions to a refuge you long for –
but how they shoo you away like dirty pigeons,
how your words weigh like droppings smearing their monuments.
Take heart, Maria, when they deem you touched,
half-mad, half-beatific because you can almost taste
this utopia on earth, a rumored eden for the sick and homeless,
a place promisingly called the Temple of Love –
are you perhaps otherworldly, mongering the trinkets of religion?
When finally, at the end of your tether, you come to this condemned
building teeming with men, women and children, they take you
in without question – these unlikely occupants of this promised land:
cripples, drug addicts, hippies, the down-and-out dregs of skid row.
Nothing’s plenty here in this poorman’s paradise: food is
meager, each one on spoonful rations; space isn’t fit for sardines,
narrow as coffin. There are no floorboards to speak of.
The walls are signatured by wrecking balls, emblazoned with
the bloom of graffiti.
This temple reeks.
Except for Love. This place preens itself on a curious brand.
Sex is a big part of it. Love is instilled this way: asleep or in
need, you are bodily carried from off the streets. You, newcomer,
are fed, bathed, and suckled by women’s breasts like a hungry
infant. In turn you must do the same, pay forward.
Maria, how quietly you take it all in, but how suddenly it seems
you are converted to this hybrid of religion and hedonism –
how you pledge yourself like a biblical Mary or Magdalene
to the man who dressed your wounds, the hippie Messiah
presiding here. Perhaps this is all born of desperation, this
kinship kindled by having no one and nothing at all. What else
do you call it when, day after day, the police rouse you all from
sleep to ferret out the drug addicts and criminals? Where is peace?
Soon enough, this experiment starts to unravel. Desperation
does not become your Jesus: he cuts his member to dissuade
dissenters from leaving. But we see how some faithful remain
– the newcomers at least, while the old hands grow
aloof – and worship at this altar to hippiedom: how you,
Maria, for one, spreads kisses to all the cripples and needy
you meet. But how to sustain? All seems empty goodwill.

Above this crumbling dream, this dilapidated fantasy, we see
the majestic vision of Kremlin, its towering spires piercing the
sky. Had you glanced up, Maria, you’d have murmured
about its remote beauty, how near it is to heaven, and yet how
unreachably so, how forbidding. -


Artur Aristakisyan's award-winning Hands is an innovative film which returns us to the very roots of cinema. Although usually described as docudrama, like any new phenomenon in art it defies clear cut definition.
One critic called it "an unique phenomenon bigger than just a piece of art". The film delivers an anarchic messianic message, similar to that of the early Christians: ANY AUTHORITY, ANY POLITICAL, SOCIAL, RELIGIOUS SYSTEM IS DETRIMENTAL TO HUMAN FREEDOM. IF YOU WANT TO BE FREE, LEAVE THE SYSTEM EVEN AT THE PRICE OF SUFFERING AND DEPRIVATION.
There is no soundtrack to Hands except the voice-over of the author, Artur Aristakisyan, who is addressing his yet unborn son. Yet unborn, and most likely "to be scooped out of the womb". Artur offers him a path to salvation, the path of sacred "madness".
We do not know whether the son ever existed or whether the extraordinary stories Artur relates, are true. But if they are not, is one capable of inventing them?
The film's "heroes" are a woman who has been lying on the ground for forty years, a disabled young man who has promised not to move from his place until the Kingdom of God comes, a dumb simpleton who ran away from an asylum, a man with no legs moving through the sea of people on his trolley, a collector of clothes of the dead, a hunchbacked old woman keeping the head of her beloved hangman in a box, a man living in an attic with birds, a blind family living from begging, an old man collecting a pile of rubbish so that it can reach the sky...
The film seems to achieve the impossible by making one feel spiritually uplifted and enriched despite the tragedy and horror of the stories it relates. Director Artur Aristakisyan says he was always fascinated by beggars. "From childhood I wanted to make a film about them. Even as a child I had a relationship with film as if it were a church. It was a God-given territory upon itself. You can't watch a film without wanting to be saved. It's a meeting with the living light. The light works with you as you work with it. I would like the film to answer the need for community - to show how people are tied together, sometimes paradoxically."

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