Aleksey German, Russia, 2018
I’ve been in St Petersburg a lot recently (in my head), re-reading Crime & Punishment and then with this film (and I have discovered a new writer to look up). It’s set in 1971, when the city was known as Leningrad during the communist era. Russia was the USSR, and the film’s colour palette reflects the time really well – it’s all greys, muted browns and beiges.
I also really loved the composition of the shots, where a scene of a room of people, for example, is set up like a painting: people in the foreground, in the background, in profile, and all perfectly placed (see image above).
But it was quite boring. A bit mono-tonal, with no development or resolution, but maybe that was the point. It’s a portrait of a few days in the life of a writer, at a time when he is creatively frustrated, keeps getting rejected, with self-doubt and not much to do. It’s not a good time in any artist’s life and it doesn’t really make good cinema. He gets drunk a lot, has arguments with the editor, hangs out with his artist friends, fails in his relationships with (several) women…
In fact, do writers ever make good protagonists? They live life inside their mind, so even when things are good, what they basically do is sit alone in a room, with typewriter/pen/laptop. Are there any good films about writers?
The Ghost Writer (Polanski 2010) was quite good, The Shining (Kubrick 1980) obviously; Howl (Epstein/Freedman 2010) was forgettable; Barton Fink (Coen/Coen 1991) is great and I haven’t seen it for ages; Adaptation (Jonze 2002)…
So, yes! I have disproved my own theory. There are good films about writers, but maybe fictional writers are more interesting than real ones! New theory: biopics are dull.