Wednesday 21 December 2011

My Friend Ivan Lapshin [1984]

Aleksei German, like many a director who worked behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War era, oftentimes found his films earning the displeasure of the powers that be. My Friend Ivan Lapshin, considered not only German’s best work but also as one of the most important films of post-War Soviet cinema, was the director’s third directorial venture – and interestingly, also his third film on the trot to have faced censorship and state ban. Based on stories written by Yuri German, the director’s father, this episodic movie’s proceedings, based in 1935 just prior to Stalin’s ruthless purges, have been told in flashbacks through the eyes of the narrator who was a 9-year old boy then. Ivan Lapshin was a Police Chief who lived in the same squalid and over-crowded apartment as the narrator and his father did, along with an underling of Lapshin and the housekeeper. The film’s two principal threads have covered Lapshin’s travails in capturing a notorious criminal and his falling in love with a wannabe stage-actress who is in turn in love with a grieving writer. German discarded conventional structure in favour of a more free-flowing style, and imbued the film with a number of Nouvelle Vague elements like improvised and garbled dialogues, jagged narrative, jump cuts, casual storytelling, among others. However, the avant-garde style apart, it managed to paint a grim picture of life in the harsh Russian winters through its static black-and-white photography. Hence, through combination of an affecting tale of buddies, failed love and nostalgia with subtle political undertones, and its challenging form and style, this managed to be a very interesting and keenly observed piece of work indeed.

Director: Aleksei German
Genre: Drama/Buddy Film/Police Procedural/Avante-Garde
Language: Russian
Country: Russia

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