Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Calculator (orig. Вычислитель / Vychislitel) 
Film.ru (E. Ukhov) review*
Filmpro.ru (A. Temirdzhanova) review*
Gazeta.ru (D. Slyusarenko) review*
Kino-teatr.ru (D. Karpyuk) review*
Kommersant.ru (L. Maslova) review*
OVideo.ru (Barnidator) review*
RusKino.ru (S. Stepnova) review*
Calculator (orig. Вычислитель)  [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Dmitriy Grachev [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* along with Andrey Kutuza [IMDb] [KP.ru]* based on the novel [GR] by Aleksandr Gromov [en.wikip] [ru.wikip]*[GR]*[IMDb] [KP.ru]*) is a recent, relatively low-budget Russian science fiction film (though interestingly filmed in Iceland [IMDb]) that utilizes enough of the conventions of science fiction that American / Western viewers would immediately understand it as belonging to this genre.
I included the film in my 2015 Russian Film Tour an initiative of mine whose aim is to offer Readers here a better sense of the diversity of the film scene in Russia today than one would get if one relied solely on the relatively few Russian films that make it to "art theaters" outside of the country / in the West.
Set a thousand years in the future,in an initial voice-over, one of the film's principal protagonists, 30-something Christina (played by Anna Chipovskaya [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*) tells us, that humanity has expanded into the Cosmos, organizing itself into a "Free World's League." Yet as she continues her initial explanatory voice-over, it becomes clear that not all that much has changed: "Security" in the "Free Worlds League" is now being run by an omnipresent, computerized "Total Control" surveillance system and Christiana's being sent to a cold, desolate penal planet called HT-59 for ... having killed her drunk-no-good-violent-cheating husband (we learn later by hitting him over the head with an ashtray ;-). So ... despite flying all about the Cosmos, people, both socially and individually, have ... remained people. How's that for a Russian "wet-blanket" of an insight? ;-)
So, in the film's initial sequence, we watch Christina along with a number of other condemned (for a random assortment of crimes deemed "grave" by the current "powers that be") arrive in an appropriately sleek/futuristic spaceship at the (penal) planet's principal (guard) base. There they are reminded that since "humanity has advanced beyond the barbarity of the death penalty," they are not going to be executed. Instead, they're being condemned to live out their days -- basically every man/woman for him / herself -- OUTSIDE the base on the cold, desolate planet. They are then escorted outside the base, given minimal supplies to divide among themselves, and told that if after an hour-or-two they remain within rifle-range of the base, THEN they would be shot by the guards from their perches at the base -- presumably because it would no longer be considered an execution by the penal authorities but rather a security-action on the part of the base or a suicide on the part of the prisoner(s) in question). Wonderful ... Siberia or Devil's Island ... 1000 years hence ;-).
So who were the prisoners? Well there was Christina, convicted of having killed her husband in a domestic squabble, as well as a motley crew of others: As would often be the case in a totalitarian state where presumably _everybody_ could have been guilty _of something_, the group of condemned included not just violent criminals, quickly "organized" by a hardened mobster thug named Yust Van Borg (played by Vinnie Jones [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*), but _also_ a(n Orthodox) priest named Yan (John) (played by Vladas Bagdonas [IMDb] [KT.ru]*), an assortment of lesser, more petty, crinimals, both male and female, and "a former Presidential Advisor", named Ervin Kann (played by Evgeniy Mironov [IMDb] [KN.ru]*[KT.ru]*), who had been a designer of the "Total Control System" (had been part of the Regime) but had now somehow fallen into disfavor now with "the President" (Figures like Kann have had a long history of existence in Russia, notably under the Communists, though under Stalin they generally ended up with a bullet in their heads. In today's Russia, former Oligarch, since fallen into disfavor with Putin, Mikhail Khordorkov [en.wikip] [ru.wikip]*, could be seen as something of an Ervin Kann figure).
As "a former Presidential Advisor" and one who had been involved "in security," Kann knew something about the penal planet HT-51 as well as the way the "Total Control System" operated. Yust Van Borg _also_ knew something about both, but obviously only "from the outside" (from stories of other prisoners, etc).
Anyway, early in the film, as the group of prisoners was dumped outside of the guard base and told to quickly make their way "out of firing range" Kann quickly makes a deal with Yust Van Borg for his (relative) freedom. He (and Christi quickly joins him) would be allowed to break away from Yust Van Borg's group in exchange for taking a significantly smaller portion of the already meager supplies that the group had been given by the base officials before dumping them outside. Yust Van Borg takes the deal because he figures that Kann / Christi are basically giving-up / committing suicide, while Kann knows that the supplies that they were given weren't nearly enough to ensure survival by anyone anyway.
Both groups, Yust Van Borg's larger group, and Kann / Christi then begin a trek (1) outside of firing range of the Base, and (2) toward a set of largely fabled Islands nick-named "The Isles of Happiness" where if they reach them, they could live-out their lives in relative peace. But it's a long way across a marshy, cold, largely desolate planet, and much inevitably ensues ...
It's a pretty good story filmed in the black volcanic rock strewn wastes of northern Iceland [IMDb] and one that American / Western movie-fans would immediately recognize as following the conventions of classic contemporary science fiction. I recently found the film, utilizing Russian website megacritic.ru.
The film is relatively widely available, albeit in Russian, on the internet. English subtitles, machine translated from a set of Romanian (! ;-) subtitles can be found on the opensubtitles.org website.
Not a bad film!
* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.
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