THE WOODEN ROOM (Yevgeny Yufit, Vladimir Maslov, 1995)

Dark, twisted, fascinating, Derevyannaya komnata inhabits an unresolved space between technology and Nature. Written and directed by Yevgeny Yufit and Vladimir Maslov, it is a mute post-Soviet black-and-white film—a silent except for its amplified sounds, which reminded me of Bresson. The protagonist, a newsreel documentarian, lives a spartan existence with his wife in a forest. The fact that the two never once speak to each other deepens the sense of their isolation.
     The film begins at a natural point: the documentarian’s fascination with a badger that is using its front paws to give itself a river-scrub. (The camera angle makes it appear that the animal is initially brushing its teeth!) But subsequent topics for the man’s camera involve his own species: human crimes against humans, a bizarre suicide, unspeakable—and largely indefinable—rituals. I am not sure what to make of the fact that the two worlds are in a sense united when a man changes form to that of a tree.
     The protagonist is obsessed with his work, watching and filming, and afterwards watching what he filmed as though hypnotized with it. Does he even care about his wife? He doesn’t act it; but when she is accidentally killed, at least symbolically as a result of his neglect, he is grief-stricken. But with her gone, what does he have to go back to? Instead, he enters the inhuman world of humans that he has been filming and embraces the consequences.
     This is an elusive one—but, as I said, a fascinating one. As something of a guide, Yufit has stated that the subject of his film is “the ecology of the human psyche that is influenced by contemporary circumstances,” “the negative influence of civilization on human consciousness.”
     Could be.

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