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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.17.11] Russia review scifi drama

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Year: 2011
Director: Alexander Zeldovich
Writers: Alexander Zeldovich, Vladimir Sorokin
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8 out of 10

Russia. 2020. A group of very rich and well connected Russians spend their days eating, drinking, talking, appearing on TV and worrying about the only thing they can't yet control: aging. A politician hears rumours of a remote area near the Mongolian border that holds the key to eternal youth and together with his wife, his brother in law and some friends, the group book a very expensive trip to the abandoned astrophysics lab which is rumoured to hold the magic key; the Target (Mishen) of the film's title.

After a long trip, the group arrives in the middle of nowhere where they are met by a jalopy which takes them into town (if you can call it that). They settle into the meagre accommodations before heading for dinner at the local eatery where they question the cook and manage to get few answers. The following day, they venture out further into nature before arriving at the now defunct lab. The facility is below ground and the group is lowered into a hole at the centre where they must spend the night before being lifted back out.


At first, it doesn't seem like the trip has affected them much beyond lifting their spirits but the changes quickly start to show. Though the physical changes aren't immediately apparent, their true natures start to take on a more prominent role and their moral compasses are thrown off kilter. The effects are, in most instances, tragic.

Adapted by director Alexander Zeldovich from cult Russian author Vladimir Sorokin's satirical science fiction tome of the same title (the second time the director and writer have worked together), Target is a sprawling, dystopian tale of what happens to people who want too much. Though it very much sounds like a tale of vampirism, these vampires aren't your typical blood or energy suckers but creatures of excess who are consumed with fulfilling their fantasies at whatever cost. For Nikolay and his wife Zoe, the film's central characters, it means the disintegration of their marriage and the end of his political career.

Zeldovich's film isn't always pensive and long winded. More often than not it's a beautifully lush story which incorporates apparently useless information which is, none-the-less, impressive and entertaining. The most notable of these asides come care Zoe's brother, the TV announcer. We see a few minutes of his shows, both before and after their trip, and though neither add much to the story, they're both immensely entertaining in a very bizarre, non-sequential way; it certainly didn't help that he spoke so fast I could hardly keep up with the subtitles. There's also the de-evolution of the characters that results in quite a bit of animalistic sex and a final orgy which is the epitome of excess.

There are chunks of Target which I still haven't managed to digest days after seeing the film and the entire thing seems excessive. There's no need for the film's two and a half hour running time, especially considering that the film's themes are fairly straight forward and could easily have been developed in ninety minutes but there's a great thrill to watching Zeldovich's grandiose approach to every part of the story. I'm not convinced Target belongs on the list among other great titles as Stalker and Fahrenheit 451 but my gut reaction once the closing credits started to roll (after a fantastic closing image) was that I wanted to see it again and that's not a common feeling.

I can't help but wonder if in 20 years time we won't be returning to Target as an overlooked gem of Russian sci-fi cinema and while only time will tell if Zeldovich's film will live up in the long run, I hope someone has the foresight to give this a proper release, one that includes turns both theatricaly (just check out the trailer) and DVD so that I can watch this a little more closely because though the themes seem obvious, the minutiae and what is hidden within it, if anything, is something I'm looking forward to discovering. Target is one I can't wait to revisit.

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