A Room and a Half (12A)
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Time Out says
Tue May 4 2010This richly textured, wholly involving, unconventional biographical portrait illustrates the central irony in the life of poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky, who spent his youth bridling against the Soviet system, but when finally expelled to pursue a successful career in the US, was then consumed by nostalgia for the old country. Having won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Brodsky died in 1996 an American citizen without ever returning home – so Khrzhanovskiy’s film takes that sentimental journey for him, as we follow lookalike actor Grigoriy Diyatkovskiy’s encounter with the Leningrad of the Soviet era (almost unrecognisable as the St Petersburg of today) that shaped Brodsky as writer and Russian. Even those new to his work will surely be drawn in by the storytelling generosity on view.
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.
Author: Trevor Johnston