Color, 75 minutes
Russian with English subtitles
Director: Ivan Vyrypaev
Screenplay: Ivan Vyrypaev
Cinematography: Andrei Naidenov
Art Direction: Margarita Ablaeva
Music: Aidar Gainullin, Sergei Efremenko, Oleg Kostrov, Vitalii
Lapin, Aleksandr Lushin, Andrei Samsonov
Sound: Roman Khokhlov
Cast: Karolina Gruszka, Aleksei Filimonov
Producers: Vadim Goriainov, Leonid Lebedev, Valerii Todorovskii
Production: Krasnaia strela with support from the Ministry of Culture,
Awards: Best Director of a Miniseries and Best Music at Kinotavr
(2009); Special Jury Award at “Moscow Premiere” Film Festival (2009)
has described Oxygen as a “rap parable” (“pritcha v
stile rep”). This musical metaphor acts as the organizing principal
for the film: it is a concept album with ten “tracks” (that is,
vignettes in the style of music videos) and two bonus features.
These episodes, set to music and narrated by “rappers” in a studio,
tell the boy-meets-girl love story between Sasha from Moscow (Karolina
Gruszka) and Sasha from the village of Serpukhov (Aleksei Filimonov).
Both are unhappily married to spouses who are “not and cannot be
oxygen.” Uxoricide, international travel (to Rome, London, Damascus
and Hong Kong) and a. police chase ending in death do little to
spice up the predictable storyline, which gives enough breathing
room for experimentation with the portrayal of the events.
As with rap music itself, which also espouses trite themes, delivery
and performativity take precedence over content. Shots in Oxygen
alternate between visual representations of the romance and footage
of the two “rappers,” also played by Gruszka and Filimonov, verbally
recounting the story in a studio. Filimonov fulfills the stereotype
of the belligerent hip-hop artist as he stands in front of the microphone,
bald in a fur coat, aggressively delivering his unrhymed lyrical
narrative of the events as he recalls them. In contrast, Gruszka,
with her Polish accent, delivers her equally unrhymed yet lyrical
lines sitting-down, but with greater emotional investment in the
tale. In addition to these two accounts of the story, there is the
third version: the visual depiction of the love story.
metaphor with rap extends beyond the partitioning of the narrative.
A defining feature of hip-hop music is its penchant for sampling
sound bites and music to produce a finished work of art. In other
words, it defines itself through the inclusion of unexpected elements,
such as dialogue, refrains from recognizable songs, startling noises
(gunshots, sirens, etc.), lyrical expression, and guest artists
who bring their own sampling into the mix. Oxygen re-appropriates
these characteristic traits to film in several ways. It merges the
cinematic styles of music video, documentary, home video, and computer
animation―both as independent elements and in combination with live
action. The camerawork blends panning and moving shots; split screens;
in-camera and post-production tricks; and black-and-white, negative
and color shots. Frames are sped up, slowed down, or appear at normal
speed. In addition to this property of inclusion, there are rhythmic
repetitions of the same image in the film, reminiscent of a disc
jockey scratching vinyl.
Not just images reoccur, however: entire scenes are recast later
in the film. The most striking example of this transpires at the
beginning and end of the film when Sasha from Serpukhov is shown
just after he has killed his wife. Covered in blood, he performs
a celebratory dance in his kitchen. In the first rendering, a range
of camera techniques (high- and low-angle shots, close-ups, and
slow motion sequences) exhibit the variety of Sasha’s dancing styles.
His movements suggest that he is simultaneously listening to rock,
punk, hip-hop, traditional folk, and even surf music as he gyrates
and flings dishes on the floor. These images of Sasha are interspersed
with breakdancing footage. Although the latter is traditionally
associated with hip-hop, Sasha’s tendency to draw from various types
of dance more closely exhibits hip-hop’s characteristic inclusion.
This episode gets reconfigured in the final bonus feature, when
a single worm’s-eye view depicts Sasha knocking dishes to the ground
and then dancing on them—first forward in time in slow motion, then
backwards in time, also in slow motion. The repetition of this scene
frames the narrative, and the playing of footage in reverse deemphasizes
the resolution of the storyline.
The principles of inclusion and repetition extend beyond the visual.
The narrators’ language stresses key phrases through reiteration,
spanning from the biblical to the everyday to the vulgar. Although
the musical tracks remain constant within each vignette and function
as a unifying element, they include a variety of musical samplings.
The title, Oxygen, is repeated, throughout the film, underlining
its linguistic importance as both the productive and destructive
catalyst operating within the storyline. It is productive insofar
as human beings need oxygen (that is, true love) to survive, and
it is destructive insofar as the need for it prompts irrational
and violent action. An etymology of the Russian word, kislorod,
reveals a deeper layering to the title. Kislo denotes sour
and rod refers to kinship. Therefore, in combination these
roots could be construed to render the concept of a familial relationship
gone bad. Ironically, the spouses, who are “not and cannot be
kislorod,” end up embodying this very concept.
Through the incorporation of different methods of storytelling,
including male and female narration, visual depiction and on-screen
running text, Oxygen presents a disjointed, non-chronological,
and even disconnected version of a predictable love story. Rather
than advocating one specific creative method, the movie contextualizes
each individual account of the tale in order to redefine the notion
of a contemporary cinematic experience.
Vyrypaev (1974- ):
Born in Irkutsk,
Ivan Vyrypaev finished the actors division of the Irkutsk theatrical
school in 1995. In 1998 he established the theater-studio “Prostranstvo
igry” in Irkutsk. In 2005 his play Oxygen is staged for
the first time. He directed his first feature-length film Euphoria
in 2006. Oxygen is Vyrypaev’s second feature-length film.
Director and screenwriter:
2009 Brief Moments, short in almanac film Crush:
5 Love Stories
2008 Antonina Looked Back
2007 The Best of Times
2006 Bimmer 2
2003 The Other District
here for printer-friendly version