Scenes to remember… one of the many good things about being at a festival is the conversations you have with colleagues in the breaks. Conversations that very often bring up scenes that have impressed you, scenes that will stay in your mind.
Example: You might not remember the title of the film but you will remember the scene with the man at Maidan Kiev, who silently puts his body over the broken statue of Lenin, protecting the head of the father of the 1917 revolution and what he stood for in Soviet times. He does not want to move or be moved. The youngsters around him either shout invective words to him, ”go home, your time is over”, trying violently to get him away, while others express ”leave him alone”. The scene is from the Ukrainian ”All Things Ablaze”, a shocking documentary descent to Hell, alarming to watch. ”Let me have a piece of Lenin”, many scream with a hammer in hand, they are photographed next to the Head or with one leg on the same statue Head – the old man is brutally taken away by hooligans, he no longer has his hat, we see him on the ground, one shouts ”help him he got a heart attack”, the music is dramatizing, it’s very strong and all sympathy lies with the man, who is being humiliated.
That was one way of looking at Maidan, Sergei Loznitsa had quiet a different one with his ”Maidan”. He is distantly observing and not involved (not meaning that he does not have a point of view, indeed he has), he makes the viewer observe and have the eyes go around his images that are like paintings, as the jury stated in their motivation for giving an honorary award to the film. Several long shots included the singing of the Ukrainian anthem, where you let your eyes wander within the frame, as was it a work by Brueghel! Unique moments they are.
Or the start of Ulrich Seidl’s ”Im Keller” (”In the Basement”) where a snake slooowly moves towards the mouse for attack, you know what is to happen, and yet you are jumping in your seat when it happens, as you are shaking your head when the nice Austrian Bürger enters his basement rooms full of Hitler and Nazi trophies. Not to forget the chained naked man, who licks the toilet clean on demand from ”die Herrerin”. One scene after each other, tableau-like, a pity they do not become a whole.