Review: ‘House With a Turret’

During the final winter of WWII, as displaced persons return to their former homes in the Soviet Union, an 8-year-old boy is left alone when his mother dies en route.

During the final winter of WWII, as displaced persons return to their former homes in the Soviet Union, an 8-year-old boy is left alone when his mother (Katerina Golubeva) dies en route in the bitter tragedy “House With a Turret.” The second feature by Ukrainian helmer-writer Eva Neymann to be based on a work by novelist Friedrich Gorenstein (screenwriter of “Solaris”), this black-and-white pic is mesmerizingly lensed in old-school Soviet style, with hauntingly beautiful, formal compositions. Although unfolding slowly, the minimalist narrative accumulates power. Pic won Karlovy Vary’s East of the West kudos; further fest play beckons.

As the unnamed boy (solemn Dmitriy Kobetskoy, a non-pro from an orphanage) tries to fend for himself, most of the hungry, war-weary adults who tower over him barely spare a kind word, much less a helping hand. Finally aboard a crowded train, he suffers heartrending emotional abuse and robbery. The tranquil beauty of the snow-covered landscapes glimpsed from the window contrast with the increasingly grotesque visual motifs of displacement and chaos inside. Pic marks the last screen appearance of Russia-born, Paris-based thesp Golubeva (“Pola X”), who died a few months after shooting.

House With a Turret

Ukraine

Production

A 1 + 1 production. (International sales: TV Broadcasting Co. "Studio 1 + 1," Kiev.) Produced by Aleksander Tkachenko. Executive producer, Stanislav Zurahov. Creative producer, Natalia Stribuk. Directed, written by Eva Neymann, based on the novella "House With a Turret" by Friedrich Gorenstein.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Rimvydas Leipus; editor, Pavel Zalesov; music, Jurgen Groziner, Erik Satie; production designer, Gennady Popov; costume designer, Ruslan Khvastov. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West), July 7, 2012. (Also in Shanghai Film Festival, competing.) Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Dmitriy Kobetskoy, Katerina Golubeva, Mikhail Veksler, Vitalina Bibliv, Mariya Politseymako, Albert Filozov. (Russian dialogue)
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