Where most films about junkies revel in squalor and needles, documentarian Aslan Galazov’s dramatic debut “The Swallows Have Arrived” is a discreet, lyrical treatment sporting the Russian penchant for spiritual rumination. Co-scenarist Irlan Khugaev’s protag wanders around his handsome north Caucasus city of Vladikavkaz over a couple days’ course, detached from the vigorous life around him. When catharsis arrives, it’s so low-key as to be barely noticeable. Yet what might sound like a recipe for boredom proves a fairly hypnotic journey sure to intrigue fest programmers.
Pale, thin, cold-sweating Pik (Khugaev) teaches literature at the local university to students so indifferent they play cards and take phone calls while he lectures. “The hell with you,” he says, walking out mid-class. It’s unclear just why Pik seems so sickly, though by midpoint we realize he’s a heroin addict in withdrawal. Broke, alienated, shunned by his dealer, he searches for a fix or any other salvation, sharing his bleak thoughts in voiceover. Attractive lensing and spare piano/ambient sound score abet the feature’s melancholy, meditative aura. Pic was reviewed on DVD when the subtitled print failed to arrive at the Montreal Fest.