Sergey Sukhanov is the hero of this film. When in Eastern European countries for workshops I very often ask the filmmakers to say or write ”main character” or ”protagonist” instead of hero. But in this case Sukhanov is a hero. He is totally dedicated to his job, to be a cardio surgeon doing open heart operations and he has saved thousands of lives. It is a call for him, who is tough but fair when he discusses with his staff – or complains that they are not competent or attentive enough: I will deduct from your salary! He wants his colleagues to have the same dedication as himself: Being sick here is uncool! Tough but fair, well also heroes have unpleasant sides of their personality.
The chain-smoking surgeon (!) has problems with the local authorities. A new cardiac centre seems to be ready but there are still budget matters to be solved before it can open. He walks the empty corridors, checks the facilities, but when? An offer to head the presidential campaign for Putin locally is presented to the popular man, who, although doubtful, can see an advantage for his new centre, supported by Putin, and the population in the region of Perm.
This is the main theme of the film – a doctor, until then, far away from politics, decides to play the game of politics, not for personal gain but from an altruistic reason. The director of the film puts it
forward in an excellent observational way. The camera is there always, it seems, it catches the stress of the surgeon in his office, when he has meetings with the staff, when operating – in one scary (from a patient’s point of view) scene he is operating and doing a press interview at the same time! His constant stress comes out, when he gets irritable over small things like when his operating clothes have been laced too tight!
I’m not going to be involved in politics, he says, and talks about dishonesty and corruption. Nevertheless, he gets involved going around to meetings arguing for Putin as the best – who else, he says. Is the moral of the film that if you want to achieve a result like Sukhanov’s new centre, you have no choice but to go with the rulers of the game? Pragmatism and populism?
We often call for development of characters in film workshops. In this case Svetlana Strelnikova succeeds very well to depict how a charismatic character changes under pressure from outside to his integrity. The film has a rythm, an intensity in tone, to use – again – good old Leacock’s words, you have to convey the illusion of ”being there”. Strelnikova does so.
Russia, 2014, 65 mins.
The film got the main award in the National competition of the St. Petersburg festival: