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Truce

[Перемирие]

Russia, 2010
Color, 95 minutes

Director: Svetlana Proskurina
Screenplay: Dmitrii Sobolev
Cinematography: Oleg Lukichev
Production designer: Dmitrii Onishchenko
Music: Sergei Shnurov
Editor: Sergei Ivanov
Cast: Ivan Dobronravov, Iurii Istkov, Sergei Shnurov, Nadezhda Tolubeeva, Aleksei Vertkov
Producer: Sabina Eremeeva
Production: Studio SLON, Mosfilm

A young trucker, Egor, from a small, nameless Russian town sets off on a journey that has no actual purpose and no verifiable destination. This slim pretext drives the virtually non-existent plot of Svetlana Proskurina’s Truce. On his way to nowhere Egor meets his former school friends, now small-time crooks; he encounters several lovely women and briefly toys with the idea of marrying; he helps his uncle get a large sum of money from his bank account, and then helps him and a local police officer to get the money back from people who had stolen it. The thin plot and the feeble directorial attempt at a road-movie suggest that the hero's journey should be read not as a physical, but as a spiritual one. However, this journey doesn’t seem to end anywhere either.

The script of the film was written by Dmitrii Sobolev, a pupil of Iurii Arabov (a long-time collaborator of the director Aleksandr Sokurov). Proskurina herself also collaborated with Sokurov on the script of his Russian Ark (2002). These facts alone ensure a low degree of plot and character development and a high degree of self-reflexivity in the film. One of the secondary characters, Genka (played by the enfant terrible of Russian rock music and the film's composer, Sergei Shnurov) dreams of becoming a writer and “observes life” between his bouts of binge drinking, while his wife participates in a staging of Hamlet in the local dilapidated Dom Kultury (House of Culture).

A more meaning-loaded play is hard to imagine, and its appearance in Truce is no accident. Definitely, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” in the world where an all-female cast performs Hamlet, while men engage in role-playing, pretending to be 18th century peasant rebels. According to Svetlana Proskurina, the definition of the Russian word peremirie (truce) that serves as the film’s title is “too much peace.” Out of boredom with this peacefulness, and out of deep Russian melancholy, men occupy themselves with drinking, stealing, and making ponderous pronouncements on the nature of God, women, art, and plumbing. “Too much peace” also means that a trucker can accidentally drive his truck through a military training area, where he is first sprayed with bullets, and then is simply let go.

“The time is out of joint,” too. There are no direct family links in the film, no mothers, and no fathers; there are only good-for-naught husbands, brothers, uncles, and friends. There is no real authority present, although Moscow remains the seat of the absent authority (as exemplified in the figure of a doctor). The military is more a metaphor than an actual presence on the screen, and a young police officer does not hesitate to step outside the law if it helps to do justice.

The landscape of Truce is a wasteland, a world that retains traces of past imperial glory but is slowly crumbling apart. It is bare to the point of physical nudity, with which Proskurina finds it necessary to flash the viewer. More than anything, it is just a stage for a morality play dressed up as a realistic depiction of Russia's provinces.

In this world, vodka is the universal medicine and reaching any destination is impossible. Men show signs of degeneration, but women are still beautiful―while they are young. Elusive femininity is the only thing that the young hero seems to be in search of, and his search is as languid and lukewarm as everything he does in the film. He is visibly unaffected by anything except electric shock, at which point the lethargic road movie suddenly goes into frenzy with a Kusturica-like episode of dancing to random folksy music. Even this short-lived frenzy seems contrived, because the film is so highly cerebral. There is little feeling to it, just as in the main character. Like Egor, it wants to pass as someone who belongs to the world of its characters, and they seem, after some hesitation, to recognize it as one of their own, but in the end the film remains an outsider, an observer, a reluctant accomplice at best. It is too well-dressed, like the young truck-driver on a haul, who changes nice shirts every episode. For all its pretentions to depicting both the outer and inner life of modern-day Russia off the main roads, Truce is curiously off-key, just like the young priest singing a Soviet twist melody from the 1960s.

The young trucker is played by Ivan Dobronravov, a grown-up boy from another cinematic parable, The Return (2003) by Andrei Zviagintsev. Dobronravov retains traces of his childish likability. His character is a youth on the verge of becoming a man, and the director seems to find his inability to blend into this grown-up world, while being part of it, optimistic. The jury of the largest festival of Russian cinema, Kinotavr, apparently agreed with Proskurina, and gave Dobronravov the prize for Best Actor, while the film itself was named the Best Picture.

Natalie Ryabchikova

Svetlana Proskurina (b. 1948)

After graduating with a degree in theater criticism in 1976 Svetlana Proskurina worked as an assistant director at the Lenfilm studio in Leningrad. In 1981 she got a degree in film directing from the Higher Courses for Scriptwriters and Directors (workshop of Iulii Karasik). In 1990 her film Accidental Waltz won the main prize at the Locarno Film Festival. Her next film, Mirror Reflection, participated in the prestigious “Directors’ Fortnight” program at Cannes. In the 1990s Proskurina made several documentaries for the Kultura TV channel. Her next feature film after a long interval, Remote Access, was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 2004. Truce has also enjoyed a successful festival run, including the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival and the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Filmography

2010 Truce
2007 The Best of Times
2004 Remote Access
1997 Mirror Reflection


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