Project DAU (2020): Overpublicized emptiness

DAU. Degeneration. Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia, 2020. Directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ilya Permyakov. Actors: Vladimir Azhippo, Dmitry Kaledin, Olga Shkabarnya, Alexey Blinov, Victoria Skitskaya, Maxim Martsinkevich, Zoya Popova, Alina Alekseeva, Alexey Trifonov, Kristina Voloshina, etc. The length of the film is 6 hours. 9 min.

DAU. Natasha. Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia, 2020. Directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ekaterina Ortel. Actors: Natalia Berezhnaya, Olga Shkabarnya, Alexander Bozhik, Alexei Blinov, Anatoly Sidko, Luke Bizhe, Raisa Voloshchuk, Valery Andreev, Vladimir Azhippo and others. The length of the film is 2 hours. 18 min.

… Some top-secret Soviet research institute conducts dangerous scientific and other experiments on animals and people … And there is something that is not done …

Press wrote about “DAU” — the project of director Ilya Khrzhanovsky for many years, especially often the media responded to it when it was presented in Paris and the Berlin Film Festival.

In my opinion, “Dow” — just a overpublicized emptiness, where banal in thought, badly played and boring naturalistic action in the style of reality show trying to pass off intensely as an innovative art house…

Opinions of Russian film critics in this regard were divided polarly.

For example, Anton Dolin, Editor-in-Chief of the Cinema Art magazine, came to “DAU” in full delight, noting that “spontaneity, carelessness, lengths, the organic nature of the existence of all characters in the frame — from the central to the episodes (which in neighboring films may be the main thing) — make the impression of a documentary spectacle. This is especially evident in the dimensionless dialogues and improvisations. But how and why does the incoherent flow of speech suddenly start to sound like first-class literature? … “DAU” (also a name) as a whole, as well as a specific “Natasha”, speaks of the irrevocable dissolution of the “I”, no matter how independent it is, in the collective rituals of society, in its overwhelming and necessary — as those in power claim — brutality. And the horrific accomplice of the victims and executioners, their mutual understanding and almost love for each other. This is a specific Sadomaso — an important scraper of our culture and history, even before the USSR, from the times of either Dostoevsky or Ivan the Terrible” (Dolin, 2020). Dolin A. “DAU. Natasha”: the most scandalous part of Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s project was shown in Berlin // Medusa. 27.02.2020. https://meduza.io/feature/2020/02/27/dau-natasha-samuyu-skandalnuyu-chast-proekta-ili-hrzhanovskogo-pokazali-v-berline?fbclid=IwAR340darhXYN1698_yWPtM3O1M297ndhTkALgZunqYGG3Ufwm_Vg1cQ03y4

The film critic Yegor Belikov is in the same enthusiastic and respectful state about “DAU”: “Say, the same “Natasha”. Each of her shots is filled with the purest energy of unrighteous life, which, as you know, can be beautiful and disgusting. Khrzhanovsky and his co-author (in the case of “Natasha” it is Catherine Ertel, who worked on the site as a make-up artist) have managed to remove and mount from the grandiose volume of materials such a very concise, accurate, even airtight film, extremely accurately shows what is becoming any society, subject to the corrosion of unfreedom, talking about the most complex emotions that arise in victims of violence. This theme of the victim’s unconventional craving for a maniac is a long time ago for experimental cinema, starting with, say, Liliana Cavani’s “Night Porter”. For example, “Degeneration” is a six-hour canvas about politics and its model on the smaller scale of institutional society, about the society’s craving for radical forces, which is embodied here by the real neo-Nazi Maxim Martsinkevich (now in prison) and his probe team of tense and confident monsters who crush the Institute from within, following the hints of totalitarian leadership” (Belikov, 2020). Belikov E. Five reasons to stop hating the “DAU” project and its film “Natasha” // RBK. 29.02.2020. https://style.rbc.ru/impressions/5e5927d89a794758edc5edb8

However, the film critic Valery Kichin has a completely different opinion: “In comparison with the unprecedented scale of the idea of Ilya Khrzhanovsky reality-show and years of noise around him, the impression of the Berlin competition 134-minute film “DAU Natasha” fits into the formula “mountain gave birth to a mouse”. And he is not curious about the other series of the cyclopean project. Because outside the tightly sealed interiors of the film, neither signs of any real life nor even the identification marks of the corresponding mode can be guessed. Guess the author’s complexes and his exertions to make viewers go through the same torments of humiliation to which were doomed people involved in a crazy project. … The director can be satisfied: the goal has been reached — human beings turned themselves inside out and revealed their abominable essence. Which had to be proved in line with the beliefs of the century, that Gorky’s “Man — it sounds proud” — no more than Soviet old-mode delirium. Stalin’s regime has nothing to do with this — everyone here dictates not the circumstances, but the reality of the test subjects. The striptease took place, and unprecedented in the disgusting spectacle and cynicism of the creator who arranged all this” (Kichin, 2020). Kichin, V. Soul inside out // Rossiyskaya gazeta. 2020. № 43. 27.02.2020. https://rg.ru/2020/02/27/berlinale-pokazal-fragment-proekta-dau.html

As a result, I think it’s hard not to agree with the film critic Matvey Romodanovsky: “After watching “DAU. Natasha” left me wondering why (even if it was only a fragment of the whole) a cyclopean cinematographic project was started. Nothing new was said about the essence of Stalinism in the film. The essence of totalitarian regimes and the existence of man in them is much tougher and brighter has already been said in literature and in cinema. It is enough to recall the classic films of Alexei German, Alexander Proshkin, Andrei Smirnov. … The result of the megalomaniacal cinematic experiment, no matter how much the creators deny it, was a kind of uncensored “House 2” in the scenery of the Stalinist era. Well, this genre also has its admirers” (Romodanovsky, 2020). Romodanovsky M. “DAU. Natasha” — much noise from nothing // ProfiCinema. 28.02.2020.https://www.proficinema.ru/questions-problems/reviews/detail.php?ID=296497

So, those were the opinions of film critics. And what are your opinions, dear readers?

Alexander Fedorov, 2020

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Film Critic and Film Historian

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Alexander Fedorov

Alexander Fedorov

Film Critic and Film Historian

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