×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Karlovy Vary Review: ‘Falling’

An arrestingly well-shot debut that, through a beautifully performed love story, brings a fresh perspective on contemporary Ukraine.

With:
Andriy Seletskiy, Dasha Plahtiy, Oleg Mosiychuk, Larysa Rusnak, Christian Boris. (Ukrainian, English, Russian dialogue)

There’s no more fascinating image in cinema than the human face. But we’ve come a long way since French theorist Roland Barthes waxed lyrical about Garbo’s “mask-like” visage. We’ve gazed into a lot of actors’ eyes, drowned in a lot of delirious closeups. So to be forcibly reminded of that simple image’s connective power is a rare thing these days, and it takes a filmmaker of uncannily focused talent — that, and a remarkable face to be looked at. In her delicate yet daring narrative feature debut, Ukrainian director Marina Stepanska gives us three such faces, and the hesitant, hushed love story and intergenerational drama of her film exists in the clarity and mystery of those fathomless features.

Falling” has a plot: Anton (Andriy Seletskiy), an astonishingly blue-eyed, talented, erstwhile musician, returns to live with his astonishingly blue-eyed grandfather (Oleg Mosiychuk) in an isolated house in the countryside outside Kiev after an unspecified alcohol- and drug-related breakdown. He meets Katya (Dasha Plahtiy), whose eyes are not blue but are still astonishing. They fall slowly, complicatedly in love, despite Katya having a foreign boyfriend with whom she’s supposed to move to Berlin.

But “Falling” is far more of an ephemeral experience than an event-driven narrative, reflecting the uncertain lives and life stages of a whole generation of young Ukrainians whose passage into adulthood has happened during these last few years, against the backdrop of a conflict that is both oppressively present and yet faraway. There are no shots of tanks or strafed buildings: the war is a peripheral and slightly arbitrary fact of life, happening elsewhere to other people and only occasionally swooping in to snatch some man or other into its clutches.

Lenser Sebastian Thaler, son of Ulrich Seidl’s regular cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler, lights and shoots with a crisp, limpid immediacy that makes him a talent to watch. His work gives even the simplest shot a vivid yet pensive effect, whether he’s filming a nightclub scene, a yoga routine, a wide shot of salmon-colored tower blocks in Kiev, or resting on one of the principals’ faces to catch their quicksilver expressions. In this register, Anton’s somewhat tough-love relationship with his grandfather is drawn cleanly, and the scenes of Katya and Anton’s initial attraction are wonderful. Stepanska holds on a shot of them simply gazing at each other across a small kitchen, and though they’re silent, the information conveyed in their glances and the subtle shifting of their bodies feels like a dense conversation.

Indeed, Anton is a taciturn character in general, with a guarded, watchful air that makes his one long, deeply melancholy monologue feel all the more remarkable. Before he and Katya have even arrived at any sort of understanding, Anton suddenly, in a single uninterrupted speech, lays out their relationship from delirious beginning to deflated end, including the inevitability of his future relapse into addiction. He even imagines the excuses Katya will make for him, and dismisses them almost derisively: “It’s one thing to diaper an alcoholic and another to rescue a genius.” The scene is the pivot point of the film, as it transforms from dreamy, possibly redemptive love story into something much stranger and sadder that sees the blush of love as only a brief hiatus between uncontrollable tragedies — whether the catastrophe of war, self-destruction or the slow-acting disappointment of squandered potential.

After so much that is allusive and evocative, the blunt melodrama of the final coup de grace feels a little jarring, but mostly this is a startlingly assured four-way feature debut: for Stepanska, for Thaler as DP and for the two beautiful leads. Perhaps that inexperience is why, even though its storyline is pessimistic, the film feels like such a breath of fresh air. Where the international arthouse is better acquainted with this region’s troubled recent history through the savage, steel-edged often allegorical work of directors like Sergei Loznitsa, Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi and the Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev, the intimacy and unsentimental lyricism of “Falling” provides a much more quietly revolutionary look at post-revolutionary Ukraine. These are the young casualties of war who don’t wear khaki, and who may never even pull a trigger, but whose lives are put into a kind of holding pattern by political and social forces over which they exert no control, in which the only certainty is that nothing is certain, and the only permanent truth is impermanence.

Karlovy Vary Review: 'Falling'

Reviewed in Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (East Of The West Competition), July 2nd 2017. Running time: 105 MIN. (Original Title: "Strimholov")

Production: (Ukraine) A Tato Film and Insight Media production. (World Sales: Tato Films, Kiev) Producers: Olena Yershova, Volodymyr Filippov, Alla Ovsyannikova.

Crew: Director, Screenplay: Marina Stepanska. Camera (color): Sebastian Thaler. Editor: Borys Peter. Music: Mykyta Moiseev.

With: Andriy Seletskiy, Dasha Plahtiy, Oleg Mosiychuk, Larysa Rusnak, Christian Boris. (Ukrainian, English, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

  • Jon M. ChuUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Honored at Unforgettable Awards: 'One Movie Every 25 Years is Just Not F—ing Enough'

    Fresh on the heels of its Golden Globe nomination, “Crazy Rich Asians” was the talk of the evening at Kore Asian Media’s 17th annual Unforgettable Awards. Saturday’s event, which celebrates Asian-American trailblazers and their achievements in the entertainment industry, honored a host of Asian actors, directors and influencers, including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    'Roma' Named Best Film of 2018 by L.A. Film Critics Association

    Members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. met today to vote on the year’s best cinema accomplishments. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” “Boyhood,” “Her”/”Gravity” and “Amour.” List of winners below. More Reviews Film Review: 'Bumblebee' Concert Review: Mumford & Sons Ride 'Delta' During U.S. Tour [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content