*swan lake starts playing* Sergei Loznitsa got tired of usual documentaries one day and decided to make one in style of found- footage like The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity but with much more scary premise – what happens in country where everybody is equal, but some are more equal than others. Michael Moore Award winning documentary, "The Event", from the first scene drops the viewer into the thick of things right after the August Putsch (Coup d'état) in Moscow 1991. Presenting only several screens with exposition text, Loznitsa has manipulated the archival footage of Moscow's august sacrificing narration and hand-holding of the viewer that are so prevalent in the documentary genre to achieve a sense of presence and involvement in the said viewer. Sergei Loznitsa graduated Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography at the age of 33 in 1997, after being not satisfied with merely working on designing artificial intelligence, and even before graduating in 1996 already won first of his 17 awards as of 2016, so if anyone is to turn documentaries into time traveling device, it may as well be him.
Take a glimpse behind the iron curtain and see how the people of USSR looked (hint – they also had mullets!), and how they looked at the camera when listening to the news of the coup d'état that had overthrown the Soviet power that ruled for 70 years. Footage from the archives directed by Loznitsa, as much as one can direct it, shows the crowds of people on the streets of1991 Moscow, distraught with news of change, astonishment in faces of some, relief in the faces of others and everybody wondering what will happen next. In- crowd hand-held camera creates a sense of presence, even participation, in the viewer, making them a witness of the events. Overhanging wide-shot scenes show the scale of gatherings, meetings and protests in the streets and squares of Moscow. Absence of narration is still not enough to claim objectivity, as Loznitsa still can influence the viewer with editing (Kuleshov effect) as well as with what he decides to show us, the viewers, and from what perspective. Instead he opts for people's voices, pamphlets and protest signs to preserve genuine reaction of people. Still, there is enough objectivity so that people may have differing thoughts provoked by this film. One thing is certain – most will wonder what happened to those people whose faces Loznitsa is so eager for us to see, are they alive today, and if so, what they think of that fateful august now that they had the time to reflect and see the consequences? Arguably, those very faces are the things that create the sense of involvement in us, staring in wonder of the events unfolding before them, the greater picture out of their grasp, and us – viewers wanting but unable to tell them what their in-moment decisions had resulted in, and always wondering if this time machine that Loznitsa has created allows us to tell them what we feel the same way they tell us with their eyes.
Documentary / History
Documentary / History
In August 1991 a failed coup d'état attempt (known as Putsch) led by a group of hard-core communists in Moscow, ended the 70-year-long rule of the Soviets. The USSR collapsed soon after, and the tricolour of the sovereign Russian Federation flew over Kremlin. As president Gorbachev was detained by the coup leaders, state-run TV and radio channels, usurped by the putschists, broadcast Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" instead of news bulletins, and crowds of protestors gathered around Moscow's White House, preparing to defend the stronghold of democratic opposition led by Boris Yeltsin, in the city of Leningrad thousands of confused, scared, excited and desperate people poured into the streets to become a part of the event, which was supposed to change their destiny. A quarter of a century later, Sergei Loznitsa revisits the dramatic moments of August 1991 and casts an eye on the event which was hailed worldwide as the birth of "Russian democracy". What really happened in Russia in August 1991? What was the driving force behind the crowds on the Palace Square in Leningrad? What exactly are we witnessing: the collapse or the regime or its' creative re-branding? Who are these people looking at the camera: victors or victims?—ATOMS & VOID
March 18, 2023 at 07:09 PM