Magnetic Storms operates on the polarization
of and disjuncture between the individual and the collective, on the one
hand, and wakefulness and unconsciousness, on the other. The main
character, Valera, is driven by an impulsive and inexplicable sense of
responsibility to participate in acts of mass violence with his coworkers
from the factory. He consistently forfeits his private obligations to his
wife and domestic stability in exchange for membership in the worker
collective. The value and purpose of Valera's collective is ambiguous,
however. Workers converge to battle in support of either Markin or Savchuk,
the two men vying for private ownership of the factory, but the workers'
actions can by no reasoning have an impact on the outcome of the sale of
shares. The implicit comment is that the politics of the factory determine
the workers' behavior, rendering the workers immediately useless as a
Each wave of violence builds like a storm,
complete with the beating of footsteps that sound like rain, but these
scenes are generally anticlimactic. Injuries are superficial or not
incurred at all. After the fighting breaks into Valera's home and turns
it upside down, he and Marina calmly make a halfhearted effort to clean
up. When the couple is accosted in the back of a truck by some workers, it
appears as though Marina will be raped, but she is instead tossed to the
side of the road. In fact, there is no time for her to be injured, for in
the next instant she sets off chasing Valera who once again is running with
no apparent destination.
Moments of intense action are followed by
scenes of nearly total inaction. Valera is forever awakening after a night
of conflict, calling into question the reality of the preceding events:
was it only a dream? How can reality take such an irreconcilably
irrational form? The film leaves these questions unresolved. The dream of
a bright day ushering cheerful workers to the factory whose ownership has
finally been determined replaces the nightmare of the endless violence and
division of the workers. Valera also finds a surreal resolution to his
troubled personal affairs overnight. When Marina leaves him for Moscow
with her sister, the working-minded Tat'iana steps in to restore order to
his home and mediate his attention to work, not to mention literally
saving his life. The camera has likewise accommodated the shift. Scenes
that were predominantly jolting and fractured, communicating the workers'
muddled conflicts, become smooth by the film's end, with more long and
longer-duration shots. The individual has been replaced by the whole, the
unacceptable by the ideal.
Just whose ideal it is remains unclarified.
Valera's beautiful, loving wife is presumably working as a prostitute.
His generous and magical friend, Stepa, a hunter and the only truly
spiritual character in the film, has been killed. Valera's personal and
professional lives seem to have reached equilibrium in the final scene,
but there is eerily no trace of either an individual or collective memory
of the preceding events. Is the bright future into which the workers march
merely another illusion, a waking dream? Or, is it a delusion that
haphazardly conceals an ugly past waiting to resurface?