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71 min. Russian.

It begins with a serious allegation: Victor is accused of having beaten a mechanic to death on a boat where he worked as a sailor. From there on in, the film follows the course of events that might have led to this happening over three chapters. After his girlfriend dies in an accident, Victor leaves the ship and returns to shore. Gradually his perception begins to shift and what was already a cold, forbidding world through and through appears to be becoming an all-encompassing realm of the dead where everyone and everything lies sleeping. Maria Ignatenko tells the story of what led up to a murder without invoking direct causalities. Everything is strangely in limbo here; we see things without being certain what exactly it was that we saw. Inside and outside merge into a frozen intermediate space that is neither one thing nor the other and shows the world from a different, abnormal perspective. Gorod usnul is silent and insistent, free-floating without any trace of levity, and thus creates a cinematographic world of loss. (ab)

Maria Ignatenko was born in Moscow in 1986. In 2008, she graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University with a degree in journalism. Ignatenko then studied film directing at the Moscow School of New Cinema, where she has been teaching film directing since 2018. GOROD USNUL is her first feature-length film.

Inside emptiness, outside silence

The film is about loss.
When you lose someone you love, you feel as if the world ceases to exist. As if it falls asleep.
Our film brings this metaphor to life.
It visualises the inner world of a person who has lost a loved one.
In this world, everyone is asleep. The protagonist encounters unconscious, mumbling bodies and is unable to get through to them.
The visual aesthetic is akin to a dreamlike state. To me, the film’s emotional landscape is very important; I want viewers to connect with the protagonist’s fragile psyche.
He feels empty inside, but his personal tragedy stirs the dark side of his personality and turns him into a criminal.
What takes place in court contrasts with the protagonist’s state of mind. The film ends with him walking towards the horizon across the frozen sea. This scene is an allegory of death and cleansing, of absolute darkness and, perhaps, absolute light.
We put a lot of love and care into casting, believing that asymmetry, roughness, awkwardness and subtlety are essential to people who possess existential perceptiveness.
Most of the film’s characters are played by real seafarers and people without professional acting education.
To us this is a very Russian film, and when casting and choosing locations we felt it important to stay in Russia, with its many faces, landscapes, the cold, the beauty and the ugliness.
Sound is very important to our film. The sleeping city is wrapped in silence, disturbed only by the breathing of its residents. It’s almost as if the breathing is your own. It’s both frightening and comforting. The sound is also the means of putting the viewer in a state of deathly calm, disturbed near the end of the film by the presence of the only person who is awake. This destruction of silence is very uncomfortable and almost painful, both for the protagonist and the viewer. In the last scene the silence returns, bringing relief. Majestic and alive, it’s accompanied only by the crackling of ice under the protagonist’s feet. (Maria Ignatenko)

Production Konstantin Fam, Katerina Mikhaylova. Production companies Vega Film (Moskau, Russian Federation), Konstantin Fam (Moskau, Russian Federation). Written and directed by Maria Ignatenko. Cinematography Veronika Solovyova. Editing Maria Ignatenko. Music Oqjav. Sound design Roman Kurochkin. Sound Roman Kurochkin. Production design Lyudmila Duplyakina. Costumes Lyudmila Duplyakina. Make-up Vera Baratova. Casting Maria Ignatenko. Line producer Lyudmila Duplyakina. With Vadik Korolyov (Victor), Dmitry Kubasov (Dmitry), Lyudmila Duplyakina (Nika), Galina Lebedinets (Victor's mother), Vasilisa Zemskova (Nika's friend).

World sales REASON8


2015: Yuha (29 min.).

Photo: © Vega Film

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