I’ve been meaning to post this since Thanksgiving, but looks like New Year’s Eve will have to suffice. Last one for 2017.
HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYONE!
After subscribing to the streaming service Mubi two months ago, UNDER THE ELECTRIC CLOUDS or known as it’s Russian title POD ELEKTRICHESKIMI OBLAKAMI was the first film that instantly caught my attention. I know they say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I sensed it be a film that would cerebrally enchant my inquisitive brain and it was drenched with melancholy, so I could not and would not resist. It’s a drama but borders more along the sci-fi genre in my humble opinion, yet most mainstream audiences may consider it disjointedly unfathomable which is fairly harsh considering the fact it’s a classic existential film. I wish, I could have seen this one on the big screen as it’s heightened strength lies within the gorgeous cinematography as much as it’s cryptic, atmospheric and ambiguous nature. And one shouldn’t be surprised as it did win the Silver Bear Award for such an achievement at the biggest film festival on the planet.
Directed by Aleksei German Jr. the narrative is chopped up into 7 different episodic stories. Every character’s life in some fashion or another is connected to this half-finished edifice somewhere in Russia. The heirs of this building are not sure if they should sell off the land or keep it. While one character, a laborer who seems aimlessly lost because one he’s foreigner and two he doesn’t speak the language and, after construction has been halted, he awakens one morning on a frozen seashore to a screaming woman being murdered which is as jarring of a scene as it is hypnotizing. This of course happens within the first 15 minutes of the film, which will make you sit up right in you’re chair for a brief instant or at least I did. Majority of the film is intricate, much like ballroom dancing which paints it’s impressionistic aura quite swiftly. It’s like a mood that passes through you, perhaps even hauntingly stays with you like an ominous shadow twirling in the limelight in the depths of your subconscious. Maybe. Too much? Probably just me, then. I was totally bewildered, once the credits rolled.
The other characters include the architects, the real estate lawyers, the junkies, and the hostage all linked to the essence of this building which leaves one to question its significance. Personally, I believe the building represents the future, creation, legacy, and hope, which all have been torn to shreds by the doom and gloom and fanatically obsessed “superfluous of men”. Alas, the opening quote may have hinted at what the scope of this film might be about and whether you agree or disagree it’s all subjective, isn’t it? We’re all somewhat destroyers of our own creations. We create what we destroy and destroy what we create and life is all one big merry-go-round.
What really gets my brain churning is this dystopian, illuminating world encompassed by a dense blanket of fog which has a sustainable presence in every episodic story with different characters all trying to figure out what to do with themselves. You see it’s 2017, and Russia is teetering over a black hole, or what I like to describe as being in a state of suspended animation. The world as it once was, is now freefalling like a green 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible. Guess what movie that’s from? Go on, guess.
Every character is left stranded, attempting to make sense out of their existence knowing they’re on the brink of another world war. It’s almost what I imagine what the waiting room to purgatory must be like, awaiting your fate direly. Things have gone horribly wrong. Each character is on the dividing line of hope and despair, with limited resources now becoming scarce. This is what I imagine happening when all technology is obliterated and know one can operate without the life support of their smartphone or Facebook feed. You have to rewire and learn a new or perhaps old school way of surviving. You can’t always Google the answer, folks.
My favorite episode in this film, is in the fourth chapter titled, “Land for Construction”. Here we have Nikolai, who’s some intellectual reduced to the occupation of being a tour guide in a museum that’s essentially on it’s last leg of existing. There’s a severe contrast here, and maybe even irony to his profession, as a scholar and tour guide dressed in a Hussar costume preserving history that’s on the verge of being torn town by the imminent presence of a new skyscraper. There’s always going to be two kinds of people in this world, one who desperately holds history on a prevalent threshold and those who want to demolish it to the ground, when all in all we need history to bridge the past to the present. The dialogue is thought provoking and I really feel I have to watch this several more times to fully grasp everything but, the one line that stuck out is when Nikolai confesses to his friend, “Lately I’ve been feeling tiny like I’m on my own palm…” I could go on and on with that statement but, I’ll save it for another blog. We’re all tiny specks in unfathomable size of a universe.
On another note, I’ve read some other reviews and some believe “UNDER THE ELECTRIC CLOUDS is the film BLADE RUNNER 2049 was attempting to be” (Yikes!) which surely made me stop and ponder. I still haven’t seen the newest BLADERUNNER so I can’t form much of an opinion on that yet but I’m kind of glad I viewed UNDER THE ELECTRIC CLOUDS first, which will certainly influence my mindset when I do finally watch BLADE RUNNER.
Personally, I found this film somewhere between Tarkovaky’s SACRIFICE and fragments of T.S. Elliot’s “The Waste Land” because ultimately it’s questioning what it means to be human when all seems to be lost. As Alexander (from SACRIFICE) says, “We wait for something. We hope, we lose hope, we move closer to death. Finally, we die.” It’s poetic and inevitable as we face life head on through trials and tribulations, through scorn, love, hardship, loss, and the list is endless. Again, the only guiding light is an unfinished building dissolving away in the background and it’s as if the sun has died and everyone is mourning it’s loss. It’s elusive, it’s ethereal, and the essence of just being human while harboring questions of the here, the then, and the future. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to breathe, when overwhelmed with the onslaught of emotions, and uncertainty of the future. This film is magnetically, thought-provoking on so many levels, it’s still difficult for me to describe it in so many words. I mean, I’m not even scratching the surface here. I am captivated by it’s brilliance so much as it delicately rattles that circumspect cage I hide out in from time to time. I adore it’s ambiguity just as I wrestle my own thoughts against the unexplainable and perhaps the unattainable. Have some patience, there’s subtitles, and please watch this film, it’s remarkable.