×

Student

A roughly faithful adaptation of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment," despite its setting in contempo Almaty.

With:
With: Nurlan Baitasov, Maya Serikbayeva, Edige Bolysbayev, Bakhytzhan Turdaliyeva, Aruzhan Sain, Amangeldy Aitaly, Asel Sagatova, Darezhan Omirbayev. (Russian, Kazakh dialogue)

A roughly faithful adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” despite its setting in contempo Almaty, Kazakh filmmaker Darezhan Omirbayev’s “Student” unspools a stark, Bressonian tale of a young man who commits an almost random act of murder. With its deadpan perfs, retro visual style and crime-story plot, the pic almost feels like an Aki Kaurismaki movie but without the jokes or rockabilly music, just the despair. “Student” is bound to study abroad at fests, especially given Omirbayev’s reputation (after “Killer”) as one of Kazakhstan’s most accomplished helmers, but distribution will be minimal beyond the CIS and Germany, where so many Russian-speakers reside.

A snappy opening sequence finds college kid Ali (Nurlan Baitasov, a filmmaking student of the director’s) working as a runner on the set of some tacky local production. The film-within-a-film’s director is played by Omirbayev himself, who’s taken aback when a student reporter tells him she thinks he knows nothing about young people today, setting up the generation gap that will rep a core theme throughout.

Later, in a university lecture hall, Ali listens to a professor (Aruzhan Sain) unabashedly preaching social Darwinism as a fitting philosophy to guide Kazakhstan into the future. Seemingly deciding to test his own fitness for survival, Ali shoots a local corner-store owner and a femme customer who unluckily stumbles onto the scene, and makes off with what little money is in the register.

He uses part of his ill-gotten gains to help out the family of a drunken poet (Edige Bolysbayev) who was once a feted literary star of the socialist state but has fallen on hard times. Ali falls for the poet’s pretty, deaf daughter, Saniya (Maya Serikbayeva), paving the way for a denouement that cleaves fairly closely to Dostoyevsky’s redemption-rich template.

As he did with “Killer,” Omirbayev once again offers a quietly scathing portrait of his homeland, which, on the evidence here, is on the verge of losing its soul in the pursuit of Range Rovers, banal soap operas and other ephemeral pleasures. It’s a slight surprise that Omirbayev doesn’t follow Dostoyevsky to the letter and have Saniya prostitute herself to support her family, a prospect that would have taken things to their logical conclusion, but perhaps he felt that would have been one humiliation too many.

Otherwise, there’s much to admire in the film’s elegantly classical tempo and the way Omirbayev achieves so much with so little, such as a dream sequence in which Ali finds himself in a car with all four of the most important women in his life: Saniya, his mother, his sister and the woman he shot. Pic also offers a some nice offscreen action, with sound effects working overtime to fill in the ellipses. Perfs, from a mix of non-pros and pro thesps, are deliberately withholding and unemotive, adding to the air of quiet desperation.

Popular on Variety

Student

Kazakhstan

Production: A Kazakfilms, Kazak Ministry of Culture, Kadam presentation. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Limara Zheksembayeva. Directed, written by Darezhan Omirbayev.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Boris Troshev; music, Baurzhan Kuanys; sound (Dolby Digital), Ilya Biserov. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 17, 2012. Running time: 92 MIN.

Cast: With: Nurlan Baitasov, Maya Serikbayeva, Edige Bolysbayev, Bakhytzhan Turdaliyeva, Aruzhan Sain, Amangeldy Aitaly, Asel Sagatova, Darezhan Omirbayev. (Russian, Kazakh dialogue)

More Scene

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Joaquin Phoenix And More Join #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    At the 44th annual Toronto Film Festival last week, in addition to attending red-carpet premieres and promoting films, some stars also joined in the fight to tackle the climate crisis. Antonio Banderas, Susan Sarandon, Joaquin Phoenix, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Neve Campbell and Alfre Woodard are among the bold-faced names to join forces with the [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content