Dark days / Majid Islami’s Review of “Dovlatov”
23 April 2018 - 11:50
The one sentence write up for “Dovlatov” sounds very much works that there done when a political system was ending and was done to please the next regime. (There is no doubt that this concept informed the film). The story of young Russian poets who during the Soviet era did not want to submit to the regime’s ideological pressures and become pens for higher during the 70s is nothing new. “Dovlatov” is not the retelling of this story but a reenactment of this story. From moment to moment it recalls the themes of “8½” by Federico Fellini and the images of “Mirror” by Tarkovsky and with a pinch of humor and sarcasm it drags its audience through its story. “Dovlatov” is a passive youth ( similar to the passive heroes of the art house films of the 1960s, the same kind as Marcello Mastersian films) who is struggling in his personal life just as much as in his literary life. He is constantly surrounding himself with similar youth at parties and other gatherings and trying to prove himself by accepting work that is the fad of the day. The government shows no sympathy and everyone is stuck between staying and leaving, all the while hoping for a miracle. We have seen this kind of desperate, protesting but at the same time passive intellectual environment earlier in the novels of Dostoevsky and To lstoy and the plays of Chekhov’s. This twentieth-century variation is something less seen in film.
Dovlatov is the fifth full-length feature by Alexey German Jr (born 1976) and Sergei Dovlatov was no fictional character he, in fact, was literally writer ( born 1941) who published 12 books in English.
The film is full of literary references, from classical Russian literature to the writers stuck at the back of the due from that period (most importantly, Brodsky, who is an important character in the film), and Western literature (Nabokov, Hemingway, and others), it is full of poetry. The poetry is presented in the backgrounds of the frames and sometimes in the dialogues between characters. People are having literary and political debates, and Dovlatov is thinking consumed throughout it all buying a doll for his daughter. (Which is not so different than the obsession of Selinger’s hero in “Little Dust” for his little sister). The film both technically and visually is stunning, and some of its sequences can be considered as one of the cinematic achievements of recent years.