4 (Chetyre) Reviews
..it gets even more boring. I only managed to sit through the first half of this movie before giving up. And that's rare for me. I can't remember the last movie I gave up on.
The bleak visuals of Russia were interesting. But really, how long does each shot need to be? I was reminded of Kundun (1997) and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1990) in this regard, but at least those movies had a story. If ever there was a movie in desperate need of editing (or better yet, a actual story), it's 4.
Once they leave the bar, the film becomes radically different and begins a slow descent into hell as the characters return to the grim realities of their lives. The meat seller goes home and deals with his mentally slipping father who waits on him hand and foot like a butler (or, more symbolically in keeping with the rest of the film, like a dog). The piano tuner goes clubbing and wanders around some desolate Moscow streets until he is apprehended by the police on mysteriously unknown charges. But the vast majority of the film's second half is devoted to the prostitute, as the funeral of a friend (or is it a sister?) brings her back to the impoverished village where she grew up, now populated almost exclusively by old women who spend their days making dolls. In the days spent at the village the film becomes a raucous, hellish nightmare world that many critics have labeled "surreal" and talked about as if it's some sort of Lynchian fantasy. However, that approach seems to me to stem from an unwillingness to believe that this sort of life actually exists this way for many people. Whenever I find comments from Russians about the film, they tend to suggest that it is not fanciful at all, but in fact totally realistic. This became even more convincing when I read that none of the village's population were actors, and in filming the "surreal" drunken party scenes the old women were simply encouraged to let loose, have fun, and try to ignore the camera.
This is a rare instance in which I not only enjoyed reading many of the comments and message boards on IMDb concerning a film, but actually found them rather helpful as well. I thought this was particularly telling:
[After the Seattle 2005 screening during the Q/A session with the director, one Russian woman ranted at him for an act of "treason" in this disturbing portrayal of Russian life, and said it and he were "dirty!", asking him where he lived *now*, he must have been well paid for this, etc. He responded that unlike her he still lived in Russia, that in fact life was *harder* than he portrayed and that Russians drank *more* than he portrayed, etc. After she walked out, he explained that her reaction was typical of the culturally *soviet* people in Russia, who were brought up to always present the best face of Russia at all times.]
As realistic as it may be, it is nevertheless stuffed to the brim with allegory, metaphor, and symbolism. Most strikingly (and expectedly) the number "4" pervades the entire film. Everything comes in groups of fours--tractors, pigs, dolls, airplanes--there is almost nothing in the film that doesn't fit into this scheme somehow (which makes it very intriguing to me that there are only three main characters). Pigs are also a recurring subject, and dogs especially run wild through the entire film. But perhaps even more significant than the omnipresence of 4's is the idea of circularity, especially as it pertains to repetition. Repetition is a major theme of the film; shots are duplicated, many events seem to happen more than once, lines are repeated by the same character to a different set of people.
The overall impression is of people who are caught in an endlessly repeating loop, caught up doing the same meaningless actions day after day in an endlessly decrepit world. There is a bit of hope in the end for one character who tries to break the circle of horror, but at best it's a faint and somewhat doubtful hope in which the most positive message that can possibly be gleaned is, "This is an endless, horrible struggle, but it's not yet a defeat." This seems to be the voice of a young generation of Russia searching for a new system of values in an old world they perceive as bankrupt of hope and morality.
I think each of the stories could've been expanded like Mariana's character.
I thought it was going to be a little more nightmarish or frightening, but the old ladies were disturbing enough.