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.