'Kommersant Daily' prize
'Kommersant Daily' prize — ‘Hypnosis’, Russia, directed by Valery Todorovsky.
One of the plotlines of Todorovsky’s last film “Odessa” remained hidden from the majority of the viewers. The audience followed the forbidden love story of a big-city journalist and a girl next door, enjoyed the Odessan charm of Irina Rozanova and Leonid Yarmolnik, and as for Valerik… And what’s with him? He’s wafting in the back and the grown-ups pay zero attention to him, even sometimes using him for their own agenda. If one wants to escape the quarantine – one will use a child against another with no second thought about the child’s feelings. The film, based on the childhood memories of Odessa with a character being a namesake of the director, implied it is not just a minor role. In “Hypnosis”, this theme takes the stage: a kid is seen as almost a piece of furniture by his parents. He becomes a subject to adult manipulation. Moreover, indifference or manipulation disguise itself as a bliss: from the supposedly democratic relationships with the parents (who go by their first names: Katya, Vitya) – to a seemingly scientific experiment a young patient is dragged into by a big-name professor Volkov. However, it would be a stretch to call Misha a “patient”: he is a pretty ordinary Moscow high school student who rambles at night. Except for sleepwalking – which, in general, is not such a rarity and doesn’t concern the family much – Misha is absolutely normal. Perfectly normal, as the professor likes to emphasize. There is even something frightening to this eternal prudence, sobriety, and calmness, and the big head will quickly sort it out. He then will start a game with the "perfection", which would make Misha think of himself as either a magician’s apprentice, or an involuntary accomplice of a murderer, or a fictional character. The symbiosis of routine (sanity) and insanity is what Valery Todorovsky does perfectly: after all, the director has never been a singer of the prosiness. He often strives to put the viewer in the world of the unfamiliar with its bold colours, shall it be the aforementioned Odessan flavour, the world of ballet in “Bolshoi”, the graphic 60s in “The Thaw” series, or the violent, vibrant 50s in “Hipsters”. Even in the "Country of the Deaf" – the one to lift off Todorovsky’s career – the soundless world and sign language seemed to be a step into Terra Incognita. The terrifying voice of the deaf man called Svinya (Pig) was a vivid omen of this world – Maksim Sukhanov debut – and now, a quarter of a century later, he appears in Todorovsky’s new film in an almost central role of Dr. Volkov, and again the voice, now clear and commanding, says: "Sleep!" and sets an infernal tone to the spectacle. Things happening behind the crummy door of the university department can, it seems, break anyone, but Misha (16-year-old Sergey Giro’s debut) is standing strong – he is almost disinterested in the experiments with hypnosis. If, however, you give it a second thought, his world looks even wilder, and the absurdity of his everyday life is stressed by an endless snowfall. The heroes get through it as if the time has stopped, the locations keep repeating as if in a bad dream: same blocks of flats, the escalator, the metro coach, the lecture hall’s outer room with the invariable red coat on the hanger. In the end, everyone's actions can be interpreted as an attempt to break out of this sticky jelly: Dr. Volkov – as he wants to break the rules of the scientific ethics, Misha – to break the role of "an adult" and "an equal" imposed by his parents and disguised as a blessing. In the hell of the everyday, madness can be a salvation.