KOKTEBEL (Boris Khlebnikov, Aleksei Popogrebsky, 2003)

An eleven-year-old boy stands alone in a field, crying. “Enough, enough,” he says aloud before bursting into tears again. He stops crying, hits the road.
     The boy leaves behind his travel companion, his father. Both go unnamed, are homeless, his father having lost his job as an aeronautics engineer, part of the price of the Soviet Union’s collapse; their wife and mother has died. Their destination is the village of Koktebel (Planerskoe) in Crimea, where the man’s sister lives—a very long way from their point of departure: Moscow. It is winter; the man wants to remain where they are until spring. “All you do is fuck one another,” the boy says to his father, referring to Xenia, the doctor in whose house they are staying. Hitching a ride, the boy finally arrives in Koktebel, but his aunt, he discovers, is gone until spring. The journey, then, turns up empty for the boy—except that he knows he made it on his own.
     Boris Khlebnikov and Aleksei Popogrebsky’s Koktebel is the first film for both. A Russia destabilized by its embrace of irresponsible capitalism is formally embodied in a visual strategy where seemingly objective shots either yield to subjective ones or turn out in fact to be subjective ones. One example: a lateral shot of the box-car in the train the pair have hopped finds father and son facing the open door; the next shot is the boy’s view of the landscape whipping by. Another example: an overhead long-shot shows the boy digging the ground; the next shot, of the boy’s father on top of a roof that he is repairing for their keep, reveals that the previous shot was a point-of-view shot.
     Father and son each has to adapt to a new life.

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