(Russia 2018; Dir: Dimitri Venkov)

The Hymns of Muscovy

Extra-Terrestrial Inversion

review by Ricardo Brunn

The Hymns of Muscovy

length: 14

year of production: 2018

country of production: Russia

director: Dimitri Venkov

director of photography: Dimitri Venkov

editing: Dimitri Venkov

festivals: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen 2018, Filmfest Dresden 2018, Kurzfim Festival Hamburg 2018, Uppsala Short Film Festival 2018, Leuven International Short Film Festival 2018

© images: The Hymns of Muscovy (Dimitri Venkov)

The (cinematic) image has always had the difficulty of adequately representing the object depicted, because the image of a building, for example, rarely does justice to its impressive size. In "The Hymns of Muscovy", the monumental character of the buildings shown becomes extremely tangible through a simple trick. In his short film Dimitri Venkov shows no more and no less than upside-down buildings.

In sublime slowness, the camera travels through Moscow, showing in three chapters monumental buildings of socialist classicism, Soviet modernism and contemporary architecture, only that the sky is at the bottom and the buildings at the top. What initially stands out as an effective inversion to illustrate the dimensions of the architecture becomes complicated with each new setting. For the eye and the brain are constantly trying to reach an agreement on how to interpret what they have seen. In one shot, for example, the camera pans downwards for a long time, towards the supposed ground, but everything remains skyward and the expectation of panning towards a building is disappointed when, at the end of the panning, new buildings appear only at the upper edge of the image. The brain, the experience, the memory say how it should be, the eye holds against it with a "but". Perception and knowledge collide in the image until the eye gives up functioning as an instrument of cognition and accepts the city as what it is in "The Hymns of Muscovy": a space station, an intergalactic ship, a flying metropolis, fallen out of time and space.

In Dimitri Venkov's short film, the city of Moscow is not only completely unrealized by exaggeration, it is at the same time reduced in its function as a space for social life, when streets and people are almost faded out in the film. The city is first and foremost divided into individual buildings, repellent facades that reflect nothing but the sky in the window panes. Life does not take place here. The nucleus of the city of Moscow, this becomes clear in these pictures, is pure representation in the permanent transformation since the 1930s. While the buildings of the confectioner's style and Soviet modernism still speak of the idea that the conversion of cities should be followed by a conversion of society, in other words the creation of a new type of human being, the film emphasizes towards the end, when the skyscrapers of the Moscow City district with their cold facades of glass and steel are dazzled across the endless sky like a mirage, that human beings no longer play a role at all here. Architecture does not serve man, it deceives him and Dimitri Venkov knows how to deal with deceptions excellently. "The Hymns of Muscovy" is an inverted monument to a megalomaniac city that has lost its compass.

This review was previously published in German on FilmGazette.de.