Review: ‘Landscape’

Less is more for "Landscape," an austere but absorbing formalist exercise consisting entirely of left-to-right tracking shots depicting people waiting for a bus in the Russian town of Okulova. Well-regarded Russian docu-helmer Sergei Loznitsa's ("Portrait") experimental approach may seem reminiscent of '60s avant-garde darling Michael Snow ("Wavelength"). Trim one-hour running time will largely kibosh theatrical prospects outside fests, but upscale broadcasters may find "Landscape" useful for schedule terrain.

Less is more for “Landscape,” an austere but absorbing formalist exercise consisting entirely of left-to-right tracking shots depicting people waiting for a bus in the Russian town of Okulova. Well-regarded Russian docu-helmer Sergei Loznitsa’s (“Portrait”) experimental approach may seem reminiscent of ’60s avant-garde darling Michael Snow (“Wavelength”), although it’s closer to the stripped-down style of contempo Ruskie doc-makers like Victor Kossakovsky, whose “Hush!” stares out a St. Petersburg window for a year. Trim one-hour running time will largely kibosh theatrical prospects outside fests, but upscale broadcasters may find “Landscape” useful for schedule terrain.

Opening on a snow-covered rural setting and seeming to spiral inwards to the center of a town tracking shot by tracking shot (separated usually by black leader or hard cuts), Loznitsa spends the bulk of the film moving through a bored, restless crowd. Soundtrack is composed of off-screen voices, as if sound and image are just a few beats out of synch. Old ladies gossip, or grumble about their alcoholic husbands. Kids stare straight at the camera. Local crimes are darkly alluded to, and the general poor state of the nation is bemoaned. Tech credits excellent.

Landscape

Germany

Production

A MA.JA.DE. Film, MDR production in association with Arte, with the participation of Mitteldeutsche Medienforderung, the Schleswig-Holstein Audiovisual Fund, and the Department of Culture for Schleswig-Holstein. (International sales: Deckert Distribution, Leipzig, Germany.) Produced by Beate Schonfeldt. Executive producer, Heino Deckert. Directed, written by Sergei Loznitsa.

Crew

Camera (color), Pavel Kostomarov; editor, Loznitsa. Reviewed at Cottbus Film Festival, Nov. 8, 2003. (Also in Leipzig Film Festival.) Russian dialogue. Running time: 60 MIN.

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