Review: ‘Zhizn s Idiotom’

Sanity is a strictly relative concept in "Living With an Idiot," a tragicomic essay on human nature and Everyman's dark side that takes its cue from the Russo literature of Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Curious concoction of absurd farce and repugnant antics in a claustrophobic domestic setting marks this strictly for rarefied fests.

Sanity is a strictly relative concept in “Living With an Idiot,” a tragicomic essay on human nature and Everyman’s dark side that takes its cue from the Russo literature of Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Curious concoction of absurd farce and repugnant antics in a claustrophobic domestic setting marks this strictly for rarefied fests.

A humanist intellectual (Anatoli Romantsov) visits a state clinic and, partly to punish himself for lack of concern over his first wife’s death, picks a seemingly sedate lunatic (Sergei Migitsko) to be a live-in inspiration for his writing.

The loony’s congenial behavior appears to support the writer’s theory that only circumstances separate a sound mind from an unsound one. However, a rampage of destruction and defecation, followed by the violent rape of the writer’s languid second wife (Angelika Nevolina), unhinges his theory.

Later transformed into an almost gentlemanly man of the house, Migitsko rejects the now-smitten Nevolina for a slam-dunk bathtub seduction of her husband. Murder, abandonment and further descent into madness follow.

Director Aleksandr Rogoshkin (“The Chekist”) fashions the yarn into a bizarre three-act opera in which the power points, and mental faculties of the three principals, are in continual flux. Unfortunately, the middle act’s intense grip is framed by a choppy, uninvolving opening and a political subtext that remains overly obscure. Tech credits are modest.

Zhizn s Idiotom

(RUSSIAN)

Production

A Trinity Bridge production. Produced by Mikhail Kirilyuk, Oleg Konkov. Directed by Aleksandr Rogoshkin. Screenplay, G. Ostrovsky, based on Viktor Yerofeyev's short story. Camera (color), S. Yurizditsky; art direction, O. Tagel; sound, Nikolai Ostakhov. Reviewed at Sorrento Festival,Italy, Dec. 9, 1993. (Also in Thessaloniki fest.) Running time: 67 MIN.

With

With: Angelika Nevolina, Anatoli Romantsov, Sergei Migitsko.
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