One moment it’s affectionately earthy Fellini-esque reminiscence, the next it’s phantasmagorical animation echoing Chagall and Gilliam, while throughout the sense of place is palpable, glimpses of the now decaying Brodsky family picturing the still sadness of empty rooms with the elegiac frisson of a Tarkovsky.
The Russian director Andrey Khrzhanovskiy is actually an award-winning animator, which explains the graphical flights of fancy as, say, musical instruments float skywards over old Leningrad. True, his film’s hustle and bustle sometimes feels like too much to take in at once,
yet its heavy payload of literary quotations, philosophical argument and classical music is also perhaps an act of faith in an intelligent audience. If you want the facts, try Wikipedia, but this swirl of memory and imagination captures the essential poetry and struggles of a great artist torn between home and freedom.