RUSSIAN SNARK, a film by STEPHEN SINCLAIR (VM DVD)

 |   |  1 min read

RUSSIAN SNARK, a film by STEPHEN SINCLAIR (VM DVD)

Although it would perhaps be possible to write the plot outline of this modest but quietly impressive feature on a very small piece of paper, the protagonists here and a few of the marginal characters bring such insightful portrayals that it keeps attention for all its 80 minutes.

First time feature director and writer Sinclair -- who co-wrote Ladies Night, worked with Peter Jackson and has previously only directed short films -- get a note-perfect performance out of Stephens Papps as Misha, a once-acclaimed Russian film director, who arrives in New Zealand in the late Nineties with his wife-cum-muse Nadia (Elena Stejko) in a tiny lifeboat. They are determined to seek a new life and a country more sympathetic to his artistic ideals.

As a film-maker -- and we see some of his intended work intercut with the main story -- Misha is pretentious, intellectual, singular in his vision and supported by the loving and long-suffering Nadia.

It gives nothing away to say Misha's dreams are quickly eroded and that Nadia finally cracks at the thought of having to support his self-belief yet again.

The story is less in the narrative than in the way it is told, through those small but accumulating blows which can be debilitating, and the conflict between an intellectual inner world and the rather more unforgiving or indifferent reality in which the couple find themselves.

There are numerous scenes where everything is said in an expression or sideways glance, and Papps masters Misha's stoic and stubborn persona as a man of few words but grand visions.

That redemption of a kind takes place in the context of loving, funny, generous but also slightly troubled Pacific family does seem a little bit of local cliche, but Stephanie Tauevihi as Roseanna (especially in her interaction with her "children") brings a ring of understated truth and naturalism to the character.

Misha is a dreamer -- and an unsympathetic and irritating one at that -- but as his frailties are revealed, to himself and the viewer, he becomes more a figure to be supported and helped than ostracised or condemned by indifference.

Russian Snark -- on DVD with no extras -- was nominated for official inclusion in a number of international film festivals in 2010 and picked up best international film at the Garden State Film Festival.

The ending may suggest some new awakening and insight, but the getting there -- like opening a series of Russian dolls -- is worth the journey for the characters and viewer alike.

For more on Russian Snark see here

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

HOOKED: ANTI-DRUG FILMS FROM THE 30'S TO THE 70'S (Rocket/Triton DVD): Marijuana to murder in 15 minutes

Every generation thinks it invents the same two things: swearing and sex. Equally, in the Western world at least, for the past century or so every generation gets the soundtrack it needs. And the... > Read more

LEE SCRATCH PERRY'S VISION OF PARADISE, a doco by VOLKER SCHANER (DVD)

LEE SCRATCH PERRY'S VISION OF PARADISE, a doco by VOLKER SCHANER (DVD)

Salvador Dali once said, “The only difference between a madman and myself is that I am not mad”. The revolutionary reggae producer and musical constructionist Lee Scratch Perry... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

AUCKLAND ROCK VENUES (2003): Pull down the shades

AUCKLAND ROCK VENUES (2003): Pull down the shades

It was Joni Mitchell who said it first - and Counting Crows thought it bore repeating: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." It wasn't exactly paradise which disappeared... > Read more

SPOTTED ON SPOTIFY: An endless stream of music

SPOTTED ON SPOTIFY: An endless stream of music

The hills – and elevators, supermarkets and doctors' waiting rooms – are alive with the sound of music. Yet despite being assailed by often unwanted Muzak, most of us still want... > Read more