QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Recent Russian films that reach the Western World barely paint a rosy picture of the Slavonic nuclear family. Cruel mothers, loveless children, violent men, dysfunctional relationships and hopelessness permeate the movies of the Andrey Zvyagintsev, Sergey Dvortsevoy, Ilya Khrzhanovsky and others. No Looking Back is no exception. The difference is that Kirill Sokolov’s movie is a comedy. It’s equally disturbing, yet intended to make you laugh. A feel-good movie about women viciously attacking each other.
Fiery and explosive Olga (Viktoria Korotkova) has just left prison after a four-year-stint. She returns home and snatches 10-year-old Masha (Sofia Krugova), who had been left to live with her overbearing grandmother Vera (Anna Mikhalkova). Both Olga and Masha detest grandma. The film is extremely violent from the outset. Olga gives Vera a bloodied nose, and Vera stabs Olga in the chest. Olga is left with a “bleeding vagina” above the waist, remarks Masha. Masha leaves a pile of faeces at grandma’s before departing. The crass humour just goes on and on.
Grandma Vera goes on a quest to find the two females who have vanished into the woods. She is supported by Olga’s former lover Oleg (Aleksandr Yatsenko), who still hopes to rekindle the romance with the young fugitive. Masha gouged his eye out with a sliver of glass years earlier, the very reason why she went to prison – the extremely violent scene depicted in graphic detail. Oleg has nevertheless forgiven Olga. He even plans to propose to her.
The violence escalates. Olga and Vera have absolutely no qualms at killing each other. The next developments include hitchhiking, car chases, a police car overturned and a hapless police officer terrified at the brutal and savage women. The two males (Oleg and the police officer) are weak and irresolute, at the mercy of the wild and obstinate females. The small Masha is the only vaguely dignified and held-together character.
Much of the comedy relies on ensanguined slapstick elements, with people falling down and being hit on the head repeatedly. And countless bullets shot in just about every direction. The outcome is gushing wounds, pools of blood and bodies lying on the ground. Could this family from hell achieve some sort of redemption? The answer is a bloody yes. Not quite a rosy picture of the Russian family, however one crafted with abundant money from the country’s Ministry of Culture. Regrettably, violence sells.
No Looking Back is showing in Competition at the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. This is Sokolov’s second feature film, after the black comedy Why Don’t You Die? (2018) – also a suitable title for the 2021 movie.