Saturday, January 3, 2015

Metro (orig. Метро) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (7.9/10) (85/100) (7.9) (10/10)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* listing* listing* (N. Holdsworth) article (N. Karcev) review* (M. Kuvshinova) review* (A. Yushchenko) review* (R. Volohov) review* (A. Filippov) review* (Nadin) review* (S. Stepnova) review* (A.O. Valentinovna) review* (O. Petrov) review*

Metro (orig. Метро) [2013] [IMDb] []* []*[]*(directed and screenplay cowritten by Anton Megerdichev [IMDb] []* []*[]* along with Denis Kuryshev [IMDb] []*[]*[]* and Viktoriya Evseeva [IMDb] []*[]*) is a first of its kind "Russian blockbuster / disaster movie" that became something of a point of national pride last year ("Yes we _can_ make a film like this!"  It's honestly worth reading through some of the Russian language reviews listed above.  And this is actually quite easy using the Google Chrome browser in which clicking a single icon that appears in the upper right hand corner of the browser screen produces a relatively good "machine translation" of the text).

The film played at 2013 New York Russian Film Week whose films I've decided to try to find and review here on my blog now.

The story envisions the breakdown of one of Moscow's 1930s-era subway tunnels under the Moscow River one fine morning.  The tunnel becomes increasingly flooded with water as the cracks become larger.  With the flow increasingly becoming a torrent, the entire subway system comes to be threatened at one point and even the collapse of a good portion of the city above becomes possible.  The scenario was actually inspired by subway construction / operational mishaps (in 1974 and 1996) in Russian second city St. Petersburg / Leningrad).

Now a good part of what makes a "genre movie" (in this case a disaster movie) interesting is the film's "subtext."  And this film is certainly rich in subtext:

The leak appears on a line built during the 1930s (hence during Stalin era) NEAR a formerly secret "station" and even deviation of the subway line.  Tellingly, the presence of the formerly "secret station" ends up saving some who otherwise would have certainly become victims of the disaster portrayed -- they find a place to hide / flee -- BUT they are saved by the utterly historical accident of the presence of this "once secret bunker."  The case being made FOR Stalin these days in Russia is that STALIN saved Russia from Hitler, but the counterpoint being made, even in Russia, is that he did so largely or even utterly by accident: No matter how abused Russia had been under Stalin it had no other choice but to basically "follow him."  But can someone really be happy that a notoriously violent and abusive husband did actually come to save his wife from being raped by a violent and sadistic stranger? (or perhaps even simply avenged his abused wife's rape by eventually stalking down and killing the sadistic stranger)?  And yet, the violent / abusive husband eventually get / kill the guy.  And the wife, (Mother) Russia, got to live... In the film, some of the characters get to survive the depicted subway disaster simply as a result of a Stalin-era "accident."

However, contemporary debate about the Stalin Era is not by no means the only subtext in the film: The subway collapse in the movie is blamed on "uncontrolled construction" above-ground during the more recent POST-COMMUNIST ERA which is to have altered ground water flows and soil characteristics in unforeseen / unstudied and hence unknown ways.  And THIS IS a current concern / fear in Russia today -- that a great deal of what goes on in Russia today is uncontrolled / unregulated (basically who has money to bribe can do just about anything) and hence THE CONSEQUENCES of such uncontrolled / unregulated actions are largely UNKNOWABLE.   And honestly not knowing that even basic things are "the way they should be" can be pretty frightening. 

But beyond these "big issue" subtexts present in the film a more personal drama plays out in a complex arguably double love triangle between several of the film's main characters:

A modern traveling "career woman" Irina (played by Svetlana Khodchenkova [IMDb] []*[]*) is married to a "good" if perhaps somewhat "boring" ER-doctor named Garin (played by Sergei Puskepalis [IMDb] []*[]*) who's still _choosing_ to work at a Moscow PUBLIC HOSPITAL.  But she ALSO has a hot "bysnessman" lover named Konstantinof (played by Anatoliy Belyy [IMDb] []*[]*).

While "modern feminist (caricature)" Irina is not portrayed well at all, together with Garin she has a cute-as-a-button daughter named Ksyusha (played by Anfisa Vistingauzen [IMDb] []*[]*) over whose affections Garin (Irina's husband) and Konstantinof (Irina's lover) really battle.

The presence of the cute-as-a-button daughter and then, yes, a cute-as-a-button lap-dog that little Ksyusha becomes concerned about and repeatedly saves throughout the film are actually very cute adaptations-of and concessions-to traditional Soviet/Russian cinematic "kitsch" ;-).  What's a good Soviet era / Russian "family friendly film" WITHOUT a "cute-as-a-button kid" and then even a dog? ;-) BUT AGAIN, THESE STOCK CHARACTERS ARE  HONESTLY _NICE_.

So as the disaster film plays-out, the question throughout is "who is Irina (well we're kinda stuck with her...) but 'more importantly' who is cute-as-a-button Ksyusha going to end up with?  And, realistically, the answer to that question actually still involves who Irina the 'problematic / fallen mom' ends-up choosing as well:  Is Irina simply going to stay with her hot "getting to be richer than God" lover living in a glass-and-steel modern Moscow high-rise?  Or is she going to choose to come back to her more boring "doctor who still wants to do good" husband living in her / her husband's ... "different kind of high rise" but one that they (and other more regular Moscovites) can afford ...?

So yes, "much plays out" and yes, it somehow involves "an accident on the Moscow Metro" one day ;-) ;-)

Honestly, this is a very interesting and often quite entertaining "disaster film."  Now could Irina's character have been portrayed a little more kindly?  Still ... what a film!


My parents' Communist-Era Czech roots require me to note a scene in the film that almost certainly had to be made ironically (or certainly would have made many "eyes roll"):
Yes, the husband Garin is portrayed as a "good guy." But the film-makers do "lay it on thick."  Early in the film, we see a _very grateful_ mother of a patient who he had just saved "SPONTANEOUSLY / OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF HER HEART" _giving him_ a BIG BOTTLE OF SOME KIND OF (PRESUMABLY EXPENSIVE) ALCOHOL for "saving her son."  He tells the grateful mother that he does not drink, but "so as not to hurt her feelings" he ... ACCEPTS THE "GIFT" ANYWAY ... OH PLEASE ... ANYONE of a COMMUNIST ERA EXTRACTION KNOWS A BRIBE WHEN HE/SHE SEES ONE ... IN THE PROPER ORDER, SHE'D COME WITH THE BIG BOTTLE OF EXPENSIVE ALCOHOL FIRST ... AND THEN (PERHAPS) HER SON WOULD HAVE BEEN SAVED...)

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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