Viktor Kossakovsky – Collected Posts on his Works

The courage to address the world with ambiguity never stooping to easy answers, can also be attributed to the Russian filmmaker, Victor Kossakovsky, who never tires of reminding us that film is an emotionally charged medium, and even when it comes to reality based filmmaking, expressing and arousing emotion should always be at the heart of the work… (Karolina Lidin, from an article 1999)



by Tue Steen Mûller


BELOVY (1993)

Vivan Las Antipodas! … a new tone for a director whose filmography includes films that you want to see again and again, from ”The Belovs” (Belovy) to ”Svyato” and ”Tishe”. (From a post 08-05-2012))

… “The Belovs”, this film from the countryside of Russia brilliantly depicts the Russian soul as we have experienced it in works of Dostoyevsky and Thechov. (From a post 02-08-2014)

… Fassaert wanted to show his appreciation of Kossakovsky by showing a long clip from ”Belovs”. He did and it made Kossakovsky burst into tears, kneel in front of the screen, ”I am sorry I shot this”, ”this is a typical Russian person”, he was inconsolable, had to leave the room, came back, left again, came back and stayed. (From a post 20-11-2015)


SREDA (1997)

Back to the progression of the Balticum Festival years in Gudhjem, Bornholm and 1997, when one film in particular, “Sreda” (Wednesday) by Viktor Kossakovsky, overshadowed all others. He was the festival’s central figure in a year when not only his film, but many of the other’s are also a return to present-day portrayels and a rediscovery of dayly life with all its problems, but also its poetry. (Tue Steen Müller, from an article 1999)

The courage to address the world with ambiguity never stooping to easy answers, can also be attributed to the Russian filmmaker, Victor Kossakovsky, who never tires of reminding us that film is an emotionally charged medium, and even when it comes to reality based filmmaking, expressing and arousing emotion should always be at the heart of the work. “Wednesday”, his feature-length documentary about the fates of some 70 of the 101 children born in St. Petersburg the same day as himself, July 19th 1961, can be interpreted as a acid portrait of contemporary Russia, but more importantly it is a symphony of lives, brilliantly composed with major and minor characters together expressing the Scales of Life. Kossakovsky has no intention of solving the enigma of life on our behalf, rather he ventures to preserve the core of mystery intact, daring us to recognize the fortuity of our own lives. (Karolina Lidin from an article 1999)

“Wednesday”, an extraordinary documentry by the thirty-five year old Kossakovsky. Born on July, 19, 1961 in Leningrad he desided to make a film about all the other children born in the same place and on the same day. 101 people including himself. He spent a year just tracking them down. Who are they and what has become of them? Indeed an unusual picture of contemporary Russian destinies. (Hanne Nimskov og Andreas Steinmann, Balticum Festival, katalog 1997)

The film “Wednesday”, has been a long time in the making but is now finished . Right after it’s screening on a symbolic Wednesday at the Baltic Festival, it was clear that a strong favourite to win first prize was receiving thunderous applaus.

The concept is ripe for journalistic treatment, but Kossakovsky, who made his international breakthrough with “The Belovs”, has instead made an artistically powerful and humorous film about the fate of ordinary people. The film doesn’t unravel a biographical sequence of events , but instead lives up to the lofty assertion which Politiken succeded  in wheedling out of otherwise down-to-earth filmmaker Kossakovsky, “Life is lived as a secret”. (Kim Skotte from an article and interview 1999) 


Another (as Sundance Institute) very important supporter of the non-mainstream, non-anglosaxon documentary production and distribution is the idfa-associated Jan Vrijman Fund. Bravo for a new initiative from JVF: ”Starting the end of July, ten JVF films will tour through Latin America. Besides the screening of beautiful documentaries from the continent itself, the fund subtitled films from Iran, South Africa, India, Bulgaria and Russia into Spanish for the Latin American audience. Moving stories varying from the unfulfilled election promises to Indian women in Six Yards to Democracy, a strikingly visualized portrait of three blind singing sisters from Brazil in Born to be Blind and not to forget Victor Kossakovsky’s Tishe! in which he filmed the repairs on a St. Petersburg street for one year from his apartment window. So far the tour is going to the Festidoc in Paraguay, the International Documentary Encounters in Colombia, Ícaro in Guatemala and to DocuPeru. (Post 22-07-2009)


Two key tutors were given the floor on the first day of the workshop. Danish Mikael Opstrup from EDN (European Documentary Network) introduced some presentation tricks to the participants before they were to communicate the content and form to their colleagues and to the tutors. And Scottish filmmaker and teacher Emma Davie brought clips from documentaries that one way or the other had a creative element that she wanted to highlight.

First one was ”Gallivant” (1996) by English Andrew Koting, a ”dada filmmaker”, that is how he has introduced himself, she said. The clip reminded the participants about the importance of keeping the playfulness in what they are doing. Emma Davie continued with two Danish films, ”Swenkas” (2004) by Jeppe Rønde and ”Burma vj” by Anders Østergaard (2008), both quoted because of their use of techniques that stem from fiction. For the latter, from the Burmese dictatorship, ”it let the limitation to be part of the storytelling”. Emma Davie concluded with a clip from ”The Eye of the Day” (2001) by Leonard Helmrich (idfa winner 2010 with the third part of this trilogy from Indonesia), and ”Wednesday” (1997) by Viktor Kossakovsky, the film where the Russian director went to find people who were born on the same day and in the same year as himself. In St. Petersburg. Great clip with a train station controller followed on his way in the opposite direction of the arriving travellers, AND a scene with a man who eats his ice cream. (Post 17-07-2011)


In the train for Copenhagen after 5 days at the 54th International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. I had my currywurst mit scharfe sauce a while ago and am ready for the train ride home via Hamburg. Gives me time to evaluate and write som texts about the films that I have seen at the very well organised digital Market in the basement of the Art Museum, a beautiful building close to the Market Square with a lot of light coming into the big hall that hosts the festival centre and the café catered by Michaelis, the hotel where I was staying, strongly to be recommended for its good rooms, calm and superb gourmet restaurant.

Yes, the Leipzig atmosphere is nice as is the festival. Easy to find out what happens where, and a good venue is the festival centre hall to sit and chat about the films. Enjoyable, simple.

Programme-wise the festival offered a lot – coproduction meetings, masterclasses, rough cut screenings, debates etc. in the so-called industry section, and films in competition and outside competition, retrospectives, focus on the Arab countries and Chile and so on so forth.

I was there to find films for Magnificent 7 festival in Belgrade and DOCSBarcelona – and I think I found good material for each of the festivals. Below you will find my impressions of several films, I will not call it reviews – of course it influences your watching sitting in a basement, in a booth with headphones – with a sound that was too low.

How do you measure and characterize the profile of a festival? What is it that makes the DOKLeipzig festival programming different from other festivals? To be honest, I have no answer. Well, here there is a special category for films by new talents with a good award, there is a German competition, there are the above mentioned focus and retrospectives, but the maincategories, the long and short international documentaries in competition – do not explicitly have a line, a red thread content-wise or aesthetically. Should they? Or is diversity a quality in itself. Also geographically and issue-wise. There is a huge step from socially committed Special Flight by Swiss Fernand Melgar to the visual extravagance of “Vivan Las Antipodas!” by Russian Viktor Kossakovsky. Not to talk about German Carmen Losmann and her issue-born ”Work Hard-Play Hard” to Marc Weymuller’s visual ”nothing-happens-here” film from the North of Portugal.

A little bit of everything from everywhere for every taste? Fair enough! Or charming or result of many voices in the selection process? What remains is an unclear programming policy. Most beautiful experience for me: the film of Kossakovsky (Post 22-10-2011)


The 15th edition of DocsBarcelona closed last night with quite a spectacular performance. After the screening of ”The Human Tower”, directed by Ram Devineni and Cano Rojas, a group went on stage to make the human tower happen in the beautiful Palau de la Musica Catalana. The small boy on the top unfolded a piece of cloth saying ”At Night, They Dance” (photo), the film that was awarded the price as the Best Film of DocsBarcelona 2012. Directed by Isabelle Lavigne and Stéphane Thibault, Canadians, the film gives a strong and warm portrait of a family of belly dancers in Cairo, shot before the revolution.

A special mention was given to Victor Kossakovsky for his ”Vivan las Antipodas”. Kossakovsky was definitely the star of the festival with a masterclass for 300 and three sold-out screenings of his films in the Renoir Cinemas, followed by 45 minutes of Q&A. Kossakovsky is a magnificent filmmaker but also a great entertainer. (Post 06-02-2012)


DOK Leipzig 2011 – Vivan Las Antipodas! Please surprise me, give me time for reflections, to smile, laugh, cry, tell me something I did not know in beforehand – or show me something that I have not seen before, or make some unpredictable montage of location connections with places, with sound and image. Surprises, please.

Viktor Kossakovsky delivers. Against all mainstream format tendencies he has made a film that has sequences that are magic, simply. Sans comparaison, this is the most impressive FILM of the international competition programme. The music score is constantly being brought to you upside-down as the tilted images are, according to the film’s concept, the antipodes of our round planet. From Argentina (or was it Bolivia?) to Shanghai, from Russia to Botswana or… I do not remember and it is not important because it all goes together without any preaching of ”halleluja, we are all the same boat”. On the contrary this is an extravagant invitation to watch our planet with all its beauty, man or nature, does not matter, the flow is there, suddenly the director allows himself, and us, to follow an eagle flying in the air for a long time, or a lion staring at you, it is a symphony of image and sound, with small human situations, scarce dialogue, mainly between the Pérez brothers talking about animal sounds and women! The camera moves against all rules, sometimes you wonder what is up and what is down.

Like we do in our life. What an adventurous and playful hymn to man and nature. And to what Film can be if you take your time and watch! Want to see it again on a big screen! And I will as it will be shown all over. Of course it will! (Post 22-10-2011) 

Finally! It has been and is being shown all over the world, the unique work of Viktor Kossakovsky, a generous and overwhelmingly beautiful film that also witnesses a new direction thematically, a new tone for a director whose filmography includes films that you want to see again and again, from ”Belovs” to ”Svyato” and ”Tishe”.

Finally, the film gets the first prize at an international festival. Not in Leipzig, where it was in competition, not in Barcelona where it was in competition – both places I had the impression that the juries thought that ”Kossakovsky has already been awarded so many times” – but in Trento, at the 60th edition of a festival that deals with films about nature, especially mountains. The jury phrased their motivation precisely:

The international jury had no doubts in assigning the Golden Gentian – City of Trento Grand Prize to this film, which is an unforgettable homage to the diversity, magnificence and antiquity of Mother Nature. The jury appreciated above all the ingenuity of the idea, the artistic quality and the technical brilliance of the film. (Post 08-05-2012)


Every year the film festival in Amsterdam, idfa, asks well known filmmakers to pick their favourites. This year Viktor Kossakovsky has made his choice. This is a text taken from the website of idfa:

According to Kossakovsky, the films in his Top 10 are films that challenged him when he first saw them, and again on revisiting them recently. They are films which, instead of trying to tell you something, try to show you something. According to Kossakovsky, if you were to add up all the new elements these films have added to the language of cinema, you would have the perfect documentary alphabet.

Look at the Face by Pavel Kogan (Russia, 1968)

Man of Aran by Robert Flaherty (United Kingdom, 1931)

Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov (Ukraine, 1929)

Our Mother is a Hero by Nikolai Obukhovich (Russia, 1979)

Position Among the Stars by Leonard Retel Helmrich (the Netherlands, 2010)

Seasons of the Year by Artavazd Pelechian (Armenia, 1975)

Spiritual Voices by Alexander Sokurov (Russia, 1995)

Ten Minutes Older by Herz Frank (Latvia, 1987) (Photo)

A Tram Runs Through the City by Ludmila Stanukinas (Russia, 1973)

Workingman’s Death by Michael Glawogger (Germany/Austria, 2005)

… how many of them did you see? (Post 13-09-2012)


Viktor Kossakovsky was on his way home from Vilnius Documentary Festival, where he presented a retrospective of his films from “Belovs” to “Vivan las Antipodas”. I was on my way to the 22nd edition of St. Petersburg festival “Message to Man”. While waiting for boarding permission, the director invited me to watch his newest work, “Lullaby”, a short film (around 3 mins.), he had made for the big documentary series initiative “Why Poverty”. Shot in Berlin with a focus on a Deutsche Bank door leading to cash withdrawal machines, the director has made an original contribution to the short film section of the series. It should be watchable very soon according to the site of “Why Poverty”, read this text clip:

”Why Poverty? uses film to get people talking about poverty.

We’ve commissioned award-winning film makers to make eight documentaries about poverty, and new and emerging talents to make around 30 short films. The films tackle big issues and pose difficult questions, but they’re also moving, subtle and thought-provoking stories.

They transmit around the world in November 2012, on 62 national broadcasters reaching 500 million people. They’ll be accompanied by events designed to spark global and national debates and an online campaign to get people asking “Why Poverty?”

You can watch clips and shorts online now, and find out more about what’s happening in your country.

After November, the documentaries will be available to everyone online and we’ll begin an outreach programme, building on the momentum from broadcast…” (Post 26-09-2012) 


o this is my choice for the Sight & Sound “The Greatest Docs Ever”. I have chosen films that I have used in my work as a teacher and consultant, films that I have come back to because they have meant something to me. I have been influenced by meetings with the directors – Herz Frank, Lozinski, Kossakovsky, Apted, Glawogger, Matelis – and by reading about and listening to clever words by Leacock and Pelichian, not to forget Lanzmann. What the films all have in common, I think, are a belief in the values of Life how hard and unfair it may be to you. A humanistic fundament, can you say so? 6 of the films are from the Eastern part of Europe where I have been working quite a lot and from where most of the original, artistic documentaries come.

Those which are multi-layered, philosophical, essayistic in a Chris Marker-way, sketchy and close to the term “camera comme stylo”. To be stressed: This is a personal choice, if I had gone through film history decade after decade it would have been different.

1.Ten Minutes Older

Herz Frank (photo)


It’s all there. The story of our lives. To be read in the face of a boy. An intellectual, concepedy documentary with Juris Podnieks as cameraman, “the story of good and evil” as the subtitle goes. I have shown it wherever I go to introduce that documentaries must be reflective and philosophical.

2. Shoah

Claude Lanzmann


No words necessary, an obvious choice and Lanzmann’s follow-up “The Last of the Unjust” is an appendix that shows that the director/journalist is still able to add quality to documentary film history.

3. Anything Can Happen

Marcel Lozinski


Playful and clever interpretation of what Life and Death, Joy and Sorrow is – the director’s charming son runs around in a park, where he meets old people

and ask them all kind of questions in a direct way that we grown-ups would never dare. The result is touching and great fun at the same time.

4. The Belovs

Viktor Kossakovsky


I could have taken the director’s last masterpiece, Vivan las Antipodas, as well but this film from the countryside of Russia brilliantly depicts the Russian soul as we have experienced it in works of Dostoyevsky and Thechov.

5. Man With a Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov


When you get bored of formatted documentaries, this is the one to make you trust the power of the documentary language, the joy of Life, the enthusiasm of what the new medium is able to achieve, innovative and playful, pure pleasure, to watch without music, please!

6. 7UP

Michael Apted

1964 –

It’s like watching yourself… wonderful hymn to human lives… you follow the characters with so much interest and empathy, you cry and laugh with them, it’s a magnificent series, and it also – in its style – is a look at how film and television language has changed through 50 years.

7. Megacities

Michael Glawogger


Few directors have as Glawogger been travelling the world to tell stories about how people live and think and work. This is one of the works from his trilogy (the others are “Workingman’s Death” and “Whore’s Glory”), with a superb cinematography of Wolfgang Thaler, “la condition humaine” is the theme so far away from reportage as one can be.

8. Before Flying Back to the Earth

Arunas Matelis


He comes from the Lithuanian school of poetic documentary, he made several beautiful b/w enigmatic short documentaries but when his daughter got leukemia and was at hospital for months, the director decided to make a film about children in a similar situation and he came up with his magnificent visual poetic homage to how children fight against their serious illness with all they got of courage and humour!

9. Seasons

Artavadz Pelichian


I have never understood Pelichian’s montage theory but this his masterpiece will always attract an audience to see the power of the single image, at the same time as the film is anthropological, have totally abstract, non-figurative sequences, no words, Vivaldi “only”. You are speechless when you have been with peasants and sheep up and down the hills. If you look carefully there are small human stories, happiness and grief.

10. Jazz Dance

Richard Leacock


I had to have Leacock on board… his filmography is extraordinary, his work with Flaherty is unique, his work with the other direct cinema people (Pennebaker, Maysles, Drew) likewise, but I have chosen this one that he himself has talked so well about, where he went bananas in a night club, filmed from the table, a jamming with the camera, a true FREE film. (Post 02-08-2014)


es, of course it is the unique Doc Alliance that brings to us – FOR FREE – seven of Kossakovsky’s film online – UNTIL FEBRUARY 1ST. It is “the first time that they enter the virtual online world and thus also your computer screens”.

It is indeed fantastic, thanks for that. Some of us will have the pleasure to revisit his work, others will have the chance to follow a great director’s development from “Losev” (1989) to “Vivan las Antipodas” (2011), passing by wonderful “Belovs” (1992), the conceptual “Wednesday” (1997), the declaration of love with “Pavel and Lalya” (1998), “Tishe!” (2002), a from-the-window-look from his appartment in St.Petersburg and “Svyato” (2005), the director’s two year old son discovering himself in the mirror. On top of that the film by Carlos Klein, “Where the Condors Fly” (2012), follows Kossakovsky during the shooting of “Vivan las Antipodas”. The latter it has to be said is available for viewing in” the following countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Portugal, Great Britain, Greece, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Botswana and all Latin American countries.”

More roses to Doc Alliance – if you enter the website you will also be given competent information about each of the films. My advice for the Kossakovsky film festival you can make for yourself is to go chronologically. (Post 22-01-2015)


I hope the audience will become infected, Kossakovsky said to me with a smile before the world premiere of his children documentary, ”Varicella” (Chickenpox). He was there on stage with one of his stars, Polina and with a twelve year old boy, who had made the music for the film! Sorry, did not catch his name…

The film is wonderful and beautiful, joyful and playful, you laugh and enjoy and you suffer a bit with big sister Nastya, when she cries and cries because she does not get the high mark, she had hoped for. But she qualifies for the next class at the ballet academy that is the main location of the film, where the sisters go to train with trainers, who demand quite a lot. But we also see them at home having their games – see photo.

Every image in this film is carefully composed, Kossakovsky lets them stand or have longer sequences like the pillow fights, girls against boys with Nastya in action, whereas the smaller Polina stands a bit in the background watching a world that will also be hers in some years. The girls are adorable because the camera makes them adorable, because the film has the right rythm of editing, because the director dares to stylize with some animation sequences, because Viktor Kossakovsky is a master in conveying emotions. The film is shot in St. Petersburg, like a painting a camera total shot of Neva marks that. Documentary poetry this is. Infected? Totally!

The film is in the international short documentary competition here is St. Petersburg at the Message2Man festival.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, 2015, 22 mins. (Post 30-09-2015)


If you read the post ”Viktor Kossakovsky at IDFA”, you will discover his insisting on the form, on the composing of the image, on the aesthetics. If you want to see how this can be done, please go and see Laura Israel’s film ”Don’t Blink: Robert Frank” here at IDFA. It was screened at the Stedelijk Museum thursday night and is an excellent introduction to the now 91 year old legendary photographer and filmmaker made by his editor and collaborator in many films, a warm and generous portrait and a look into the creative process of a lovely man, a great artist, who has suffered personal tragedies in his life, that is very much present in his work, but who has also demonstrated how to catch moments in the lives of ”The Americans”, the title of his masterpiece. There was a retrospective of his work – and there is right now at IDFA, including his Rolling Stones film, ”Cocksucker Blues” – in Copenhagen, Sara Thelle wrote about it on this site.

And then last night at the Munt 11 cinema with around 400 seats, full house to the world premiere of ”Ukrainian Sheriffs” by Roman Bondarchuk and Darya Averchenko, which I have had the pleasure to follow from the sideline and with a biased look: it is an excellent film that demonstrates fully the talent of Bondarchuk, also present in his ”Dixieland” that will premiere next year. A breakthrough on the international scene. The film has wisely been taken fo the main international competition by the IDFA, where it still has 6-7 screenings.

Finally, there has been quite some discussions here at IDFA about the Viktor Kossakovsky session the other day. I wrote about it and this morning I got an email from VK, who wrote to me something important, I have to correct from my previous text: … one thing: I was saying Sorry, because Russians or prorussians shot the airplane MH17. And when I was watching The Belovs I just realized that you can see in the film the main element of russian mentality: unpredictable aggression – when we talk about Patriotism and meaning of life… (Post 21-11-2015)


The IDFAAcademy for young filmmakers from all over the world started yesterday. Joyful Meike Statema is the head of this important section of the Documentary Paradise that IDFA was called in the KLM flight magazine I had in my hands during the turbulent journey down from Copenhagen thursday morning.

The turbulence continued… After video introductions of the participants – full of fun – Viktor Kossakovsky and Tom Fassaert were introduced under the headline ”Master and Talent”. It became one of the most memorable sessions I have experienced. It was emotional and informational at the same time – to bring forward two words that Kossakovsky used on a stage that he conquered totally.

The original idea, I think, was that the two of them should have a conversation about filmmaking, the experienced Kossakovsky and the young Tom Fassaert, whose ”A Family Affair” was the opening film of the festival’s 28th edition.

It did not work out like that. Fassaert wanted to show his appreciation of Kossakovsky by showing a long clip from ”Belovs”. He did and it made Kossakovsky burst into tears, kneel in front of the screen, ”I am sorry I shot this”, ”this is a typical Russian person”, he was inconsolable, had to leave the room, came back, left again, came back and stayed.

Stayed, yes, I dare say, to tear apart completely the film of the talent. He asked for a screening of two times five minutes – without sound – from ”A Family Affair”… What do you think, he asked Fassaert, is that a good cut, is that a good shot, why did you not get up a bit earlier in the morning to catch the right light, so on so forth. ”There’s no form”, ”where is your talent”, the rhytm of your film is like ”a limping chicken”, ”you don’t know how to distinguish emotion and information”, ”composition of the image, it is not there”.

OMG – Tom Fassaert took it well, I think – but ”you could have warned me in beforehand” – and Kossakovsky gave him the following home work: 1.Go and watch Rembrandt. 2.Watch contemporary art. 3.Read big books.

”You can continue to be a filmmaker if you in the next film are able to surprise yourself and me”. And to the audience: ”If you watch two films by me, which are just good, then I will quit making films”.

”There must be an aesthetical reason, if you don’t have that, don’t make the film”.

Viktor Kossakovsky is a gift to the documentary community, always inspiring, not afraid to express his emotions. An entertainer as well. All right, he ”killed” the young director but he will survive and without having seen the whole ”A family affair”, but only clips, Kossakovsky was right in his objections. What a show, thank you IDFA! (Post 20-11-2015)


Hun er en russisk skolepige. Hun står i stalden i den lille landejendom, hvor hendes mor ellers er alene med langt til naboer, men i et storslået landskab ved Baikalkasøen, et landskab hun elsker. Det fortæller hun datteren på turen op i højden med udsigten til den vældige vandflade. Den store pige er hjemme nogle dage, går i skole i byen langt væk. Nu laver hun ting sammen med moderen, i en smuk scene i det velordnede køkken med et lille så pænt hvidmalet bord og to lige så hvide taburetter sætter de sig over for hinanden, pigen har noget i hænderne og med en graciøs bevægelse trækker hun med en fod taburetten ind under sig, intet er tilfældigt i denne film, nu sidder de over for hinanden og ordner grøntsager. Det er scenens indhold, dette og så lyset.

Ude i stalden er det også lyset som er indholdet. Og så skolepigens gæs og en enkelt hane, som hun driver ind i deres aflukke. Men altså dette lys i skrå striber, som vel kun er til stede et kort øjeblik visse dage, at fange og skildre dette lys er scenens magi. I sin kritik af Tom Fassaerts ”A Family Affair” den dag i Amsterdam, som Tue Steen Müller refererede, faldt blandt andet denne hurtige, svidende bemærkning: ”… What do you think, he asked Fassaert, is that a good cut, is that a good shot, why did you not get up a bit earlier in the morning to catch the right light?” Alle som ser ”Vivan las Antipodas!” vil anerkende at den erfarne mester alle disse mange optagedage, som denne med den russiske skolepige i stalden, selv har været tidligt oppe. (Post 02-01-2016 abn)


The festival in St. Petersburg is over and awards were announced yesterday after a grandiose (experienced through photos on Facebook) closing evening that had Viktor Kossakovsky’s “Aquarela” on the program, of course, this is his home town! (Posted 22-09-2018)


I have known him for years – since back to the days of the Bornholm festival in the 90’es. He came to Leipzig for one screening of the film and for a talk. We hugged and I told him that “Aquarela” is an ingenious film! No, no the next film is better, he said and went into the room, where the talk was to take place. Viktor Kossakovsky is not one, who answers the questions put to him, he takes his own roads of improvisation. Impossible job to be a moderator, when he is in the chair, does not matter, he is entertaining and has something important to say.

Let me quote Ukrainian Darya Bassel, who wrote on her FB: “Kossakovsky pours nectar in my ears. He sings an ode to a cinema, which doesn’t put story and character (person) in the middle of everything. A cinema which is art not storytelling.”

Yes, that’s what he keeps on saying and thanks for that in times of constant “what is your story, who are your characters”. We make movies for the cinema, the industry should know that, he said. In “Aquarela” you can´t have a shot of water that lasts 1 to 1,2 seconds. It has to be longer to give you a chance to think. When I’m editing, I’m always thinking about 10 people – one will think like this, another like that, and I try to put it together so many interpretations are possible. Why do we make films? If it is to prove our ideas, then it is not cinema! No brain first, I’m trying to use my eyes, my camera. Brain first, it is insulting!

And oh, Kossakovsky always refers to – this time – Leonardo da Vinci, Malevich – and to literature, it’s refreshing, include it in the curriculum of the film schools. (My comment!)

He talked about teaching, that he does not like, he talked about some of the sequences in “Aquarela”, about “how little we are” in this world (as is so obvious in the film), he praised his fellow cinematographer Ben Bernhard, he talked about “Tishe!” that he made while waiting for funding for his next film – a film that none of the tv commissioning editors would take when it was a project (I want to shoot a film from my window in Saint Petersburg), but all bought when it was made. Paper work is needed when you want funding for a film.

I have promised producer Aimara Reques also to watch the film in Amsterdam, at IDFA, I will, and will try to write a review of this masterpiece. (Post 02-11-2018)


You have to be careful with “vonhörensagen” but in this case it had its influence on the talk with Vitaly Mansky, that took place friday afternoon at the Polish Institute in Leipzig, a couple of hours after his film had been screened at the Cinestar Cinema. At the Q&A after the cinema screening of “Putin’s Witnesses”, he was attacked for having made a propaganda film for Putin. One of the attacks came from Viktor Kossakovsky, who according to my sources was pretty rude towards Mansky. It was apparent that the two do not think high of each other… (DOK Leipzig, Vitaly Mansky and Putin, posted 04-11-2018 by Tue Steen Müller)



Normally when I go to an art exhibition, I walk around alone, stop in front of the paintings, it’s silent, maybe I talk with the one who are with me, but I love this chance of stepping into a world that does not move. When watching Kossakovsky’s flow of aquarelas, WATERcolors in constant movement, there is no silence, on the contrary – it’s a bombardment of image and sound, an aesthetic composition, it’s expressionistic, surrealistic, abstract, figurative, a journey through art directions and genres. And a magnificent piece of Cinema. That also has a dramaturgy.

As the director put it before the screening at the Pathé Munt 3 cinema in

Amsterdam at IDFA, the only cinema in Amsterdam that can play atmos dolby sound: Be prepared for a cold shower in the beginning, it will be warmer later on in the film. I agree with the first, I am not sure about the second.

Any way the overall theme is there right up front: You see ice and you see people moving around. From a respectful distance there is a focus on a man kneeling. He is looking for something in the water under the ice. Kneeling. The reference to praying is obvious. The sound from the ice is like a thunder, it’s bumps and bangs, a bit scary.

They are moving around, the men in their orange work suits, we spectators don’t know why, but we are told after the introduction of a burning house (PHOTO) with a mind blowing beautiful surrealistic layered image with a burning house: it’s about pulling up a car from under the ice! Shocking to watch, not because of the car but because the men fall on the ass one after the other, we fear it at the same time as we hope for it – and because of the sound of the film – a shock effect is sought for. The power of nature. We humans don’t stand a chance! A man was in a car, he seems to have drowned. Drama; a friend is crying out “he has drowned”.

A cold shower, indeed. And thanks for some calm moments under water, abstractions, and then suddenly a cute small goldfish comes into the picture. Before that strong heavy metal music, “I look at the world and I notice it’s turning. While my guitar gently weeps…” I was thinking of George Harrison afterwards, and then again a shock with a clip from a boat surrounded by meter high waves. Gosh!

The first part of the film with the crazy moments of cars underwater to be taken up is shot in Kamtjatka Russia, a Russian friend told me, the boat is sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, the film is far from informational National Geographic, it moves from place to place, from continent to continent. From painting to painting.

I love the sequences, where you rest your eye and can enjoy aquarelas, where the paint is thinned by the water, where it’s surrealism giving associations to Yves Tanguy or expressionism in the direction of Kandinsky or more wild like Jackson Pollock. These sequences have no purpose, they are invitations to contemplate the colors that suddenly turn to a black canvas; it’s a film with constant surprises.

For a Dane it felt calming to come to Greenland, to hear but not see the howling dogs, to see a boat go out with men on their way for hunting, I know about this from lots of films by late Danish director Jørgen Roos – and then back to the boat and the heavy metal music and the amazing images of two sailors steering safely – after the screening there was a question to Kossakovsky on how filming was on the boat: “we were lying fixed on the deck and it took us hours to get the tripod from one side of the ship to the other”.

Underwater again, we see a horse walking, not the head, it is above water. You smile, shake your head, it’s amazing what this director and cameraman gives you, what an image. Dali is of course associated to in my head and up we go to see herons walking in a cemetery, it’s a place where there is flood, we leave the icebergs for a moment to see water, it’s calm but interrupted it is by scary hurricane images from Florida (?), to waterfalls and sides of mountains – and Faces full of emotions “hidden” behind the waterfalls, close-ups, the only ones in a film, that is to be concluded by a rainbow and cello music. There is death in this film but also life and hope. An essay about the human condition. Faces held for a long time on the screen like in a film by Sokurov, to whom Kossakovsky has dedicated the film.


UK, Germany, Denmark, 2018, 90 mins. (Post 24-11-2018)


Karolina Lidin: “Unfolding the Universal” in Tue Steen Müller, ed.: “Balticum Film & TV Festival 1990-99”, Baltic Media Centre, 1999, pg. 29f.

Tue Steen Müller:  “The Bornholm festival Balticum Festival 1990-99”, ibid pg. 26.

Kim Skotte: “Life is lived as a secret”, ibid pg.49ff.

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Allan Berg Nielsen
Allan Berg Nielsen

Allan Berg Nielsen started the first documentary cinema in Randers, Denmark way back in the 1970’es. He did so at the museum, where he was employed. He got the (16mm) films from the collection of the National Film Board of Denmark (Statens Filmcentral). He organised a film festival in his home city, became a member of the Board of Directors of the Film Board, started to write about films in diverse magazines, were a juror at several festivals and wrote television critiques in the local newspaper. From 1998-2003 Allan Berg was documentary film consultant (commissioning editor) at The Danish Film Institute, a continuation of the Film Board. Since then free lance consultant in documentary matters.

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