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"The Fool" is good. Really good actually. You will not find too much joy in it, but if a film like this can be produced in Russia, there is hope after all. Yes, it does lacks subtlety and the messages most of the time are shouted at you, but a great story unravels in this not-too-dystopian movie and, even more importantly, an even better ending.
It is a great film that creates a compelling story on one level and also serves to form into a scathing metaphor for a corrupt and failing government.
This film does just that.
Obviously Yuriy Bykov's brilliant film is aimed directly to the heart of Russia's worrying infrastructure. It boggles my mind how this film was even made and released.
The real power for Western viewers is the fact that while this film is a societal and political commentary of Russia -- it could just as easily be the same for our own country here in the United States. Simply think of Flint or the horrifying gap between wealth and poverty.
If you've not seen this film, you should make a point to do so. Disturbing, provocative and absolutely vital.
A man's stand between 800 lives and corruption.
It was another Russian film just like the Oscar nominee 'Leviathan' that highlighted the corruption in a city administration, except it had no depth in its narration like that one did. A simple tale that takes place within the 24 hours, but strongly told. From the domestic violence to the political targets, the film extraordinarily portrayed its each character and some of theirs double-cross. Besides, it discloses what the higher and lower class expects from each other, like it is already in order and those who disturb it will be seriously get affected.
When a public utility worker Dima Nikitin finds an enormous crack in an apartment block, initially he ignores it, but later thinks something terrible going to happen. As his duty, he notifies the higher ranked authorities in the middle of the night when they were partying. At the time when it was going to be declared emergency in the town and to take all the precaution measures, the tale takes a twist that changes the fate of many who were involved in the matter. So the dark side of the story comes into the display.
Showcasing Russia in such a bad light really hurts if you're a Russian. More than that, the outsiders judging a country from what the film depicts is very sad. It was neither true story, nor inspired by the true story, but this kind of things happens in every other countries. More or less the experts agree with the film to the present state of the Russian political landscape. It was financially co-supported by the ministry of culture that tells us they're going tough against such action. So this film was received well from all the quarters thinking such kind of portrayal might lead to transformation in the struggling society.
"A fish rots from the head down.
If I am tainted, then so are all of you."
In this, the main event was given the prime focus than any of the film characters. That's why the happy or the sad ending won't matter. But there was a character who was preferred the most for his involvement in the plot. In the meantime, it also followed other characters to add more complication in its narration and the story to get going. Overall, it was something like a chain reaction that began with a domestic violence and moved to the public service till it reached its highest end, I mean the head of the each department and the politicians.
What the film's end was outlined is something the negative side of the society. The lack of the knowledge of the lower class families and the negligence of the civil servants is the reason for most of the tragedy that could have stopped before it to happen. The title is a metaphor for one who unnecessarily raising his voice in a matter where others were being quiet. All the above, knowing what's coming at you and taking an improper way to tackle it is what's going unnoticed. Unless every citizen join hands to fight against the corruption, this thing will go on.
The film totally captures our attention. Obviously a slow start, but you could have not expected the way it ended. I haven't seen a single Russian film at the recent time, but very pleased with this. It was a double strike, delivering a message as well as a fine story for a film who seek only the entertainment. In some way, it was so much simpler and better than that Oscar nominee I mentioned. Because unlike that film, in here majority of us who always root for a particular film character mostly won't end in disappointment. That's the cleverness of this narration. If you had liked that film, then you should not miss this film as well.
A bitter, pessimistic parable about the flimsy foundations of the modern Russian society. Even if it is a little bit more didactic and graphical than it should, manages to shock since it ends up in a clear ascertainment; each society has the administration it deserves.
Durak é um filme sobre um simples homem que é encanador. Ele é honesto o que é contra todo um sistema de burocratas corruptos para salvar a vida de 800 pessoas que moram em um prédio mal feito do governo que está por desabar.
Ótimo filme com boa direção e atuações. A história também é coesa e releva a inescrupulosidade do ser humano, dos mais poderosos aos mais humildades.
A Russian film that visibly takes pride in its nation's literary laureates. Feeling akin to contemporary Chekhov (or even Dostoyevsky), The Fool is a simple story with dense themes, and striking pay-off. Yuri Bykov has written a sublime script that both arises societal concerns and more personal issues, and his filmmaking surpasses it. Great tracking shots, and a keen eye for humanity makes this the kind of film that cinephiles clamor over, and certainly sets up Yuriry Bykov as a talent to watch. Ending on a note that's devastatingly ironic, The Fool gives an updated meaning to the term tragi-comic, and it's up to viewers to call it a morality play, or a cautionary tale (probably both).
As long as such movies are being made in Russia its cinema is not dead.
Title: Solid black portrait of contemporary Russia, showing the full meaning of corruption (bureaucrats) or hopeless lives without a future (lower classes)
Newspaper articles in March of 2015 about an alleged political murder let us recall what we learned in school about cleptocracy, or government corruption in plain English. In hindsight, not a new phenomenon in contemporary Russia, existing for many years already, but it stayed for me under the radar until lately. The first time it drew my attention was in the form of a movie, Twilight Portrait (Nikonova 2011), albeit that it could be downplayed as the proverbial rotten apples spoiling it for the whole police force. Later on I saw two others extending the theme, namely A Long And Happy Life (Khlebnikov 2013) and Leviathan (Zvyagintsev 2014), both showing corruption as deep-rooted in the bureaucracy. Especially politicians seem more involved with their own career and wealth than in their care for the average citizen. It still can be much worse, however, as demonstrated in Durak (The Fool), written and directed by Yuriy Bykov. This time it seems that all of Russian society is infected with the same disease, not only politicians and related bureaucrats. His previous film The Major (2013) was more modest in scope, and confined to a well meant cover-up to protect the career of a fellow policeman.
Nevertheless, all these movies portray the same corruption in Russian society, only varying in scope and depth. Corruption seems extinguished in our Western society, and something that only still persists in third-world countries far away. Despite being no third world country, all aforementioned movies suggest that Russia is deeply soaked with corruption. It is something that Durak (The Fool) demonstrates in several scenes, showing that going along with the crowd in taking what you can get "everyone does it", is the only way to survive, even necessary to obtain at least a minimal level of comfort in your lives. It is precisely in these fine details that this movie excels. Apart from corruption, alcohol is shown to be a main source for comfort and relief of the daily boredom and poor circumstances. Another way to pass the time is fighting, mostly about lack of money or living space, usually both. It applies especially to the apartment building in question, showcasing how the lowest of the lower class live and how they interact with each other.
Durak's total running time of 116 minutes may seem long for modern viewers. Admittedly, it takes its time to outline many facts of contemporary life in Russia. We are lucky to be able to see that, and as such our time is far from wasted. I could only think of one single scene that took too long for my taste, while our main character Dima walks to the restaurant where the city council has a party to celebrate the mayor's 20-years anniversary. It is shown in the form of very long uninterrupted take while following Dima along empty streets and dark houses, apparently to show the absence of a lively city center. It succeeds in leaving the impression that everyone is at home, probably drinking or fighting as seems the common way to pass the time in the various apartments visited throughout the story.
All other scenes serve their purpose very well in zooming in on the people and their motives. Take for instance the meeting with department heads convened by the mayor, where Dima has the opportunity to explain the problem and its urgency. The next scene shows Dima, accompanied by two of the department heads, how he convincingly demonstrates the sorry state of the building. Upon their return to the meeting and the seriousness is sinking in, everyone is very busy with establishing the impact on their own position, anticipating the findings of an afterward investigation when the apartment building really would collapse. It makes clear to us that the corruption is not limited to this city council alone, but extends to the levels above them. In other words, there is no simple way to get loose from this tangled web. The mayor and the department heads play their roles very well, and we have ample chance to observe their dilemma's and their reasoning which actions to take (or not).
Dima's family life is also portrayed very well in several parts of the story. The opening scene shows him studying for an exam to get a civil engineering degree, while his mother says it is a waste of time. Instead, he should rather "give" the examiners something to assure good marks. A similar discussion is about Dima's refusal to steal pipes from the factory where he works, in spite of "everyone else does it".
The central theme of the story is whether the city council will act responsibly and evacuate the apartment building, not an easy task while other premises to accommodate 820 people has to be found. I do not want to reveal further developments for spoilers sake. It can scatter in all directions until the very end, and indeed some unexpected turns of events are part of the deal here. Ultimately, there are no winners, only losers. It is very depressing all over, but I don't think a positive ending is reasonably possible in these circumstances.
All in all, acted and shot very well. Actors perform believably, even the "bad" ones. We get a good feeling why they do what they do. Actually they seem to have little alternative. That also is sadly the case for the inhabitants of the apartment building, who we observe in miserable circumstances, riddled with alcohol, noise and violence. The only problem I have with Durak (the Fool) is, that it is indeed depressingly black all over. Apart from Dami, it was totally devoid of gray and white, while aforementioned other movies with the same theme showed at least a few decent and honest people, leaving room for the conclusion that the average citizen lives a normal life, neither through-and-through corrupt (bureaucrats) nor without hope (lower classes).
I saw this at the 2015 Cleveland International Film Festival where this Russian drama's English title was listed as The Fool. Artyom Bystrov stars as Dima, a conscientious plumber. Artyom has a magnetism in this role as a hero surrounded by corruption. In fact, every synonym for the word honest in your thesaurus applies to this character and he is believable. Russia is still recovering from the collapse of the USSR. In trying to survive and gain power the bureaucrats in one small city have become incredibly corrupt. Dima discovers that a large apartment building full of lower class people and outcasts of society, one of many buildings where he works as a plumber, is crumbling and will probably not stand another 24 hours. The machinations of the bureaucrats to hold their positions and the contempt they feel for the poor unwanted people of this deteriorating building make the red tape impossible to cut through. All the people including Dima's family, from the haves to the have-nots, are drawn cleverly and realistically rather than as caricatures. There are portions of the film that more fully develop a couple of the bureaucrats too. Dima and the few other people who have a seed of virtue left risk life and limb in this intense drama. Throughout the film I perceived a Christian metaphor. I do not mean this is anything like the Left Behind series, which disgusts me, but it shares some themes though firmly planted in this world and not based on being awarded some supernatural afterlife. Dima's principles and his relationship with his father as well as the combination of corruption amongst leaders and physically crumbling housing where the least loved members of society live suggest to me a subtle Christian message. One, like the story of Les Misérables, that I am inspired by unlike the more loudly proclaimed but corrupted message usually force fed by the fundamentalists.
A great film but not for the reasons the majority sees it for.
I would say that roughly 95% of people who have seen this film, can be divided into two groups. Group #1: Russians. Group #2: The world that watches Russia through the TV screens. Therefore, the latter group praises this film for portraying the harsh "realities" of today's Russia (realities that they see on TV). While the Russians either heavily praise or critic this film due to its comparison of the building in the movie to the actual country of Russia.
If you fall into either of these groups, you're deeply mistaken. This movie is just like any other dystopian fiction film. The only exception is that it is so close to reality. And while it is NOT the reality, the scariest part of this movie is that this dystopian fiction slowly merges with reality. For me, THIS was Bykov's biggest achievement. I've seen enough movies that unravel the grim reality of the post-Soviet Russia, as I have seen and read enough of dystopy stories. This film cannot be categorized as either. It's a hybrid of both. As I have mentioned, the product is scary. It chilled me to the bone.
Again, this is not about Russia. This could have happened in any other fictional world and many characters show this fiction really well. It's about humanity in general. Russia just makes it more believable.