Russian Resurrection Film Festival, 'The Geographer'
Thursday July 18, 2013·
With only a cursory knowledge of Russia (snow! Vodka! Hats??) The Geographer does seem like good introduction to Russian film, seeing as it contains all of the above, as well as some solid dramatic performances, humourous anecdotes, and top-shelf cinematography.
Based on the novel The Geographer Drank His Globe Away, lead man, Konstantin Khabensky (of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fame) plays Victor Sergeyevich Sluzhkin: fired biologist, disappointing husband, forgetful father, alcoholic, and brand-new geography teacher to a bunch of wretched [expletives deleted] born in 1997.
We spend the first half of the film getting to know his eternally grouchy and inexplicably gorgeous wife Nadya, his eternally jovial and inexplicably romantically successful best friend Budkin, and their peculiar love triangle(s), set against the bleakly beautiful small-town Russian winter. Then, after losing a bet with his students, Victor keeps his promise to take them on a springtime geography field trip to the middle of Russian nowhere. Bonding and revelations ensue.
While the film is photographed beautifully (the two rooms of Victor's apartment framed like a pair of portraits; hand-held shots from the train into the approaching wilderness) it doesn't quite save it from a foundational weirdness that seems to be the fault of the translation— never in my life have I wanted to be able to speak Russian more than during the particularly baffling scenes. A strong film in this iteration of the Russian Resurrection Film Festival, but it might mean more to those who don't have to rely on awkward subtitles for subtext.