×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Long and Happy Life

Anyone familiar with the m.o. of Russian arthouse films will immediately assume the title "A Long and Happy Life" is meant to be ironic, and so it proves with this short and sad film.

With:
With: Alexander Yatsenko, Anna Kotova, Vladimir Korbeinikov, Sergey Nasadkin, Evgeny Sitiy, Inna Sterligova, Alexander Aliabiev, Gleb Puskepalis, Pavel Kolesnikov, Denis Yatkovsky, Valery Konstantinov, Mikhail Hapchuk, Ludmila Familtseva , Andrey Monakhov.

Anyone familiar with the m.o. of Russian arthouse films will immediately assume the title “A Long and Happy Life” is meant to be ironic, and so it proves with this short and sad film. Although predictable in other respects, Boris Khlebnikov’s “High Noon”-inspired tale of a farmer trying, in doomed fashion, to do the right thing nevertheless reps a solid piece of craftsmanship, more coherent and accessible than the helmer’s previous Berlinale submission, “Help Gone Mad.” Pic should have a brief lifespan domestically and could enjoy further offshore outings at fests and as a limited release in select territories.

In a remote northern township, city-born farm leaseholder Alexander Sergeevich or “Sasha” (Alexander Yatsenko, star of Khlebnikov’s sophomore pic, “Free Floating”) faces a choice that looks like a no-brainer: Either stay and work the land in the ailing village he’s moved to, or sell for a sizable compensation fee from the local government’s land administration office, and move back to civilization with his pretty g.f., Anna (Anna Kotova), who’s been his mole at the bureau.

However, when he tells his farm workers the deal is all but done, which means they’ll also get a cut of the fee — albeit a meager one — when he signs the papers, a “mini-revolution” unfolds. Turns out they don’t want to stop farming, an understandable position given the current economy, and they implore Sasha to help lead a ragtag armed resistance should the officials try to remove them by force. Knowing Anna will be furious, but touched by his employees’ faith in him, Sasha tries to back out of the deal. Perhaps he’s too easily flattered by their seemingly innocent loyalty to him, and it’s telling that the workers call him the Russian equivalent of “master,” evoking a complex kind of nostalgia for the serf-landowner relations of pre-Soviet times.

Even so, cleaving roughly in spirit to the “High Noon” template, the plot tracks how, one by one, the villagers let Sasha down and betray him, even Zhenia (reliable character thesp Evgeny Sitiy), the most vocal hothead in favor of fighting, who swindles Sasha out of 15,000 roubles (about $500) so he can skip town. The only one left is a gormless kid with nowhere else to go (Gleb Puskepalis, once the child star of Khlebnikov’s co-directed 2003 debut, “Koktebel”).

Although “Life’s” core premise technically makes at “inaction” film of sorts, Khlebnikov spikes the tempo with some pacey, nicely kinetic sequences, including a ominous fire-fighting scene at the start that demonstrates Sasha’s natural leadership abilities, and a climactic shootout that is striking for its subdued use of sound and unusual camera angles. Indeed, d.p. Pavel Kostomarov’s digital lensing reps a highlight, especially the painterly way it captures the glowering beauty of the volatile nearby river and the brightly colored autumnal landscape of the Murmansk Region where the pic was shot. Intentionally jagged editing also creates a nervy, tense feel in the middle reels, and breaks up the monotony of watching the villagers go about their grindingly repetitive work, whether building a chicken coop or organizing a potato harvest.

Popular on Variety

A Long and Happy Life

Russia

Production: A Koktebel Film Co. presentation with the support of the Film Fund, Russian Ministry of Culture. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Roman Borisevich, Alexander Kushaev. Executive producer, Andrey Murtazaliev Directed by Boris Khlebnikov. Screenplay, Alexander Rodionov, Khlebnikov.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Pavel Kostomarov; editor, Ivan Lebedev; production designer, Olga Khlebnikova; costume designer, Svetlana Mikhalova; sound (Dolby Digital), Maxim Belovolov; line producer, Natalia Borisevich; assistant director, Olga Granina. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 9, 2013. Running time: 77 MIN.

Cast: With: Alexander Yatsenko, Anna Kotova, Vladimir Korbeinikov, Sergey Nasadkin, Evgeny Sitiy, Inna Sterligova, Alexander Aliabiev, Gleb Puskepalis, Pavel Kolesnikov, Denis Yatkovsky, Valery Konstantinov, Mikhail Hapchuk, Ludmila Familtseva , Andrey Monakhov.

More Scene

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Screen” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

  • Laura Dern MoMA

    Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver Honor Laura Dern at MoMA Film Benefit

    Laura Dern is certainly no stranger to film sets. “Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd birthed me and bred me on cinema,” she said on Tuesday night in New York City, as she accepted honors at the Museum of Modern Art’s annual Film Benefit, presented by Chanel. “I was conceived on a Roger Corman movie called [...]

  • Jon Huerta

    'This Is Us' Star Jon Huertas Builds Community With Venice's Clutch Restaurant

    “This Is Us” star Jon Huertas, who’s being honored at the Napa Valley Film Festival with Variety Vivant’s Spice Award Nov. 13, has always known he wanted a career in Hollywood. But he’s something of an accidental restaurateur. No, he didn’t exactly stumble into co-owning Clutch, one of the hottest upscale casual restaurants in Venice, [...]

  • John Legend LVE Wine

    Celebrities Take Hands-On Approach to Making Fine Wines

    Care to sip champagne backed by Jay Z or 50 Cent? Or mellow out with a fine Chianti from Sting and Trudie Styler? Behind every wine label is an incredibly expensive team effort of surprising proportions. Wine lovers may consider making their own as the ultimate dream; however, few can afford the buy-in. Vineyards are [...]

  • St. Clair Brown, Mad Fritz lead

    Craft Beer Thrives in the Heart of Napa Wine Country

    Napa Valley has long been devoted to the products of the grape, but the region actually played a pivotal role in getting the craft beer revolution off the ground. New Albion Brewing launched the microbrewery trend in adjacent Sonoma County in 1976, inspiring a wave of delicious and potent alternatives to pale industrial beer. There’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content