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Focus on youth

In modern Russian cinema, heroes of 16+ are increasingly appearing. Who and why makes films about them, and how well such movies are released?

Recent years can be called the heyday of young Russian cinema, bearing in mind the age of both the film characters and the directors themselves. A new generation of cinematographers with no regard to the prohibitions and judgments of past years, pays more and more attention to people of the Z formation: born in the Internet and social network era. The focus in such movies is on the problems and symptoms of rejuvenated heroes and spectators. The material shows what such diagnostics reveal and how cinema visitors themselves react.


The film of Aleksandr Gorchilin "Acid" in the summer was awarded the main prize in "Debuts" at the "Kinotavr", and the 26-year-old director was called the voice of a new generation. It is noteworthy that the heroes of Aleksandr’s film have no their own voice: the author describes the life of two apathetic young people who, after the death of a close friend, seem to be in search of the meaning of life, and they seem to drift aimlessly with the flow. On screen, Sasha is brought up by his grandmother, who constantly feeds him with cutlets, and a mum, who is enticed by Buddhism. Petya lives without parents and spends night at friends - together they lead a lifestyle that is self-contained, without a goal, a dream and any responsibility. Without going into moralism and without revealing his heroes, Gorchilin turns modern Moscow into an alien planet of children without fathers, to whom no one has told what to do or how to be.

Judging by the list of fashionable Moscow editions, which in October wrote about the Gorchilin film, the campaign of “Acid” was aimed at the metropolitan layer of young people: mates of Sasha and Petya, who are already thinking about the notorious meaning of life. The same audience showed the greatest loyalty to the cinema: a significant proportion of the nearly 22 million rubles collected by “Acid” at the box office was earned in Moscow.

Another story about the lost boy - Ivan Tverdovsky's film "Quibbles" - was held at the box office with more modest charges of 1 million rubles. The action of the 29-year-old Tverdovsky film, which many people call Russian Lars von Trier, also takes place in Moscow. Thanks to night shots and unusual perspectives, the space of the capital turns into a dark fairy-tale kingdom, in which the main character, the orphan Denis, falls. The unexpectedly appeared mom places a trusting teenager at the epicenter of this protected world, where adults are cruel, cunning and heartless, and teenagers are loose change, practically meat, which can be thrown into a baby box or under a car hood. There is an opposition of the world of the naive and fragile Denis to the dark and evil world of all the others that wound him over and over again. The lonely, but happy childhood without a mother wins in this confrontation. Only in the light (the scenes in the shelter are the only daytime in the whole film) does the hero feel safe in the orphanage space. The rules of this little world are well known to him, he does not want to go back, into adulthood.

Despite the fact that Tverdovsky's tale of darkness did not produce high rates in the Russian box office, the film will still have a chance to earn at the box office outside our country: “Quibbles” was created in co-productions with France, Lithuania and Ireland and was shown at several foreign film festivals.

No restrictions 

The story of “Quibbles” is not the first time Ivan Tverdovsky addresses to teenagers. The same director was one of the first to cover the topic of special people in Russian cinema, and he did it in the debut film “Correction Class” at the age of 25. The students of his special correctional class are wheelchair user Lena and the epileptic Anton, the stutterer Mitya, and other characters — those whom society has moved beyond the limits of the norm, and therefore beyond the limits of empathy and any other feelings. At first glance, the tragedies that take place in this “abnormal” world, fenced off from others, are the same: first love and betrayal, desire to be accepted by the collective and persecution. But the general indifference of others only exacerbates the damage done, leaving no room for pity in “Class” and giving room for directorial manipulation. Tverdovsky in his first film beats the patient, but at the same time he boldly declares a white spot in the life of Russian society: people with disabilities here are still ignored.

At the same time, the narrower and seemingly far from such forbidden topic of school bullying was the same white spot. At the same time, since the time of Rolan Bykov's “Scarecrow” and almost until the beginning of the 2010s, few people plunged into the rules of coexistence in school hierarchy. The secret palm is still holding Valeriya Gai Germanika. Having released the drama “Everyone Will Die, and I Will Stay” in 2008, and after the series “School”, the director spoke out on the topic of teenage cruelty more than other Russian authors. "Everyone Will Die" collected in the box office moderately good: 6 million rubles.

The theme of not only the first love, but also the first sexual experience was addressed in 2015 by director Andrei Zaitsev. In his film under the capacious title "14+" there is no falsehood or convention, as well as obscene vocabulary and explicit scenes. In the sleeping areas of the Russian city, where sympathy is born between teenagers Vika and Lesha, the director finds a place for romance and tenderness, without raising it to the beyond level of great and radiant love. At the same time, neither the 16+ rating nor the chaste mood of the film stopped the advocates of morality, who demanded that the film be canceled for propaganda of promiscuity.

With the support of the Ministry of Culture "14+" was released after the success at the Berlinale (in which, by the way, it was shown as part of the program "14+") and at the Kinotavr. The film earned 11 million rubles and positive reviews from the audience and critics. The latter noted another noteworthy moment in the picture of Zaitsev: the director was one of the first to bring out a new hero of films about teenagers — the social network. The likes on Vkontakte and the page views of the high school girl you like are organically integrated into the development of the relationship between his two heroes. By the way, and the performers of the main characters, Gleb Kalyuzhny and Ulyana Vaskovich, were found by Zaitsev in that social network.


90s. Reboot

While some directors are adopting signs of the times - the Internet Instagram, memes and stickers - others travel to the past. Several young authors turned to one of the most controversial decades in the history of new Russia. And, what is remarkable, most of the directors in the “dashing 90s” barely reached 10 years of age, and this may be related to some kind of romanticization of a given period, which can be seen more and more in modern cinema.

Kantemir Balagov, who shot his debut film “Tightness” about Nalchik of the 98th, turned to this date out of a sense of nostalgia. Recalling his own childhood, the director built a world on the screen, which he remembers from the words of his parents and from his own fragmentary memories, and put the teenage girl Ilana in the center of the story. At the Cannes Film Festival, where “Tightness” was first shown in the Special Look program, the actress Daria Zhovner was compared with the star of a new generation of American actors Kristen Stewart, and for good reason. Brisk, darting between duty and desire and desperately dreaming to get out of the city that held her hand and foot - Ilana acted by Zhovner is a new type of heroine. The present of this girl is determined by her impulsiveness and thoughtlessness of actions, and the future is not a love interest, but family ties that turn out to be stronger than any shackles. In Cannes and at Kinotavr, the film provoked positive responses, while in Russia, “Tightness” was released during vacations on August 3 and eventually collected 5 and a half million rubles - a decent result, considering the 18+ rating, the given theme and the release date of the film.

The heroine of the new film by the Belarusian director Darya Zhuk "Crystal" is trying to leave beyond the other borders - and more specifically abroad, to the USA. Wayward Velya lives in Minsk in the mid-90s, she dresses brightly, declares herself loudly and is trying with all her might to leave for the states forever. But the aggressive environment again and again reminds the heroine that it is right to live in the homeland, and to demand respect for oneself is silly. Marking "90s", which Daria Zhuk paints on the screen in bright colors and fervent music tracks, is more a tribute to the trend for nostalgia, and not a mandatory condition for the existence of the heroine. Retro in this film is more and more similar to the current modernity, and the attempts of the young heroine to break into another, bright and free world are universal for any time.

How relevant this issue is for today's young people, is still to be found out: for the first weekend, “Crystal” collected a half million rubles at the box office. The film of Darya Zhuk, however, has already entered history as a film for the first time in 22 years the Belarusian Oscar Committee was assembled: “Crystal” was nominated for the most famous film award in the nomination “Best Film in a Foreign Language”, but missed the shortlist.


Playing with genres 

The search for the heroes of a new generation does not always end in a movie on problems with a minus sign and in an art house niche. In recent years, there have been attempts to bring 16-year-old (and even 20-year-old) characters into mass space and to the greatest number of screens. Combine popular with useful.

One of the examples is Nadezhda Mikhalkova's debut film “Lost Place”, which recently went to the box office. For the first test in the full meter, the director chose the genre of thriller, and as the performers of the main roles, she invited actors who were practically not of the same age as screen schoolchildren who had previously starred. And let this picture sometimes lack the scenic and stylistic unity: the “Place” is now torn between irony and horror, a slasher and a classic thriller. These flaws are redeemed by the original cast with unfamiliar faces, the domestic flavor and atmosphere of the city lost in “nowhere” - a space in which anything can happen, even the murder of those who sat in the wrong chair in the cinema hall. "Lost Place" has collected 22 million rubles at the box office, an attempt to restart the thriller genre on the basis of Russian horror stories can be considered credited.

An even brighter response is received from the public by young people who are placed in situations that are not intimidating, but humorous. So, Aleksey Nyzhny's comedy “I'm Losing Weight”, which was presented to the viewer as a romk about losing weight, in fact turned out to be a film of finding oneself and trying to replace personal problems with food. Without pedaling the heroine’s experiences, but organically fitting them into the overall plot of the story — losing and finding yourself and love again, Aleksey Nuzhny created an ironic movie about normal people. And this measure of normality has covered a rather large audience: from girls and young people to the older generation, which is also represented in “I'm Losing Weight”. Film’s box offices of 634 million made the film one of the leaders of release in 2018.

Another film about a young hero: Oksana Karas's film “The Good Boy” beat off its budget. The director received the Kinotavr Grand Prix for it in 2016. Karas painted with bright colors, added music and dance to the lyrical comedy about growing up of a kind and noble boy Kolya. She invited such actors as Konstantin Khabensky and Mikhail Efremov for the supporting role. “The Good Boy” is hooliganly conditional and loud: the screen (and seemingly modern) Moscow here incorporates the features of the three previous decades, and the characters inhabiting it are obsessed with morning exercises, night vigils and dance battles. Such flirting with styles and genres does not interfere with the director - on a par with the hero Kolya - to ask questions about the most important thing. About “good” and “bad”, and about adult life, which is much more complicated and diverse than these clear concepts. Oksana Karas's motley film, in which deep content was hidden under a bright wrapper, collected 72 million rubles at the box office and received many positive responses.


What’s next 

The symptoms of the new heroes of the younger Russian cinema can be enumerated indefinitely. However, there is a common denominator in the reflections underlying the symptoms as well. The heroes of “What is my name?” By Nigina Saifullaeva, “Rag Union” by Mikhail Mestetsky, “The Nadezhda Combine” by Natalia Meshchaninova and many other films are increasingly focused on designing independent adult life: trying to understand what they can give to this world, and what they can have from this world in return. They are not afraid of questions and searches, whether it is the search for the figure of the parent, their own identity or hypothetical good and evil.

The year 2019 also promises the viewer many examples of such journeys in search of meaning. The author of a bright and cheap popular road movie “How Vitka Chesnok Drove Lekha Shtyr to the Disabled Home” Aleksandr Hunt makes a movie about adult teenagers who run away from the world “Off Season”. Oksana Karas is going to release a film about the first love “Above the Sky”. Several bright films about young people shown this year at the film festival “Window to Europe” may also get to the Russian distribution. It remains to hope that in the cinemas these new cinema heroes will also find like-minded people.

26 Apr 2019
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