Director: Alexander Zeldovich
Writers: Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Zeldovich
Stars: Vitaly Kishchenko, Danila Kozlovskiy,Nina Loshchinina
A group of friends set off to the mountains in Asia in search of an abandoned astrophysical secret facility, where space particles were once studied and collected. It is believed that spending some time in its gigantic mirror-aerial could lead to various positive changes in a person, such as the reversal of the aging process, return of youth and all it is associated with - the sharpness of perception, desires and ambitions... The friends find the abandoned site and spend one night inside it. Indeed, on the return to Moscow, they start to feel some changes. They are getting younger, and their dreams start coming true. However, there is a price to pay for this. The protagonists lose control over themselves and their existence, and fast and unexpected changes engulf their lives.
As a rule, critics have learned from bitter experience not to expect revelations from Berlin, especially not from the flaccid and usually middle-brow competition selection. Surprises, if they come, will be from left field – and the one film I saw this year that can genuinely be called a UFO is a Russian science-fiction extravaganza, shown in the Panorama section. Target (Mishen) – ‘The Target’ would be a better translation, to make it sound less like an action thriller – is an extraordinary, flamboyant, hugely ambitious chunk of dystopian futurism.
It’s set in Russia in 2020, when the rich are even richer than now, when Chinese influence is in the ascendent, and there’s a superhighway running across the continent direct from Guangzhou to Paris. Characters include a customs officer – who, presiding over highway traffic, has become fabulously rich – Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and his trophy wife (British actress Justine Waddell) and her manic reality-show host brother. They all leave a CGI-enhanced futuristic Moscow for a secret astrophysics site on the Mongolian border, in search for the source of youth. They find it, return home… and then things get strange, but certainly not in a predictable manner.
A sumptuously-designed, constantly surprising piece, Target uses the science-fiction genre rather in the way that Alphaville, Stalker and Fahrenheit 451 did, to philosophical effect – although in this case the production values are on a much more sumptuous, Spielbergian / Kubrickian level. Some of the social satire, notably some Fellini-style TV sequences, is heavy-handed, but Target is distinctive in being at once modernistically sleek and traditionally Russian; along with some Solaris-style oases of ruralism, this is one of those films where characters intermittently recite Lermontov poems to each other.
Part state-of-the-nation comment, part disquisition on good, evil, mortality and desire, and wholly a genre cult attraction extraordinaire, Target is a fabulously imaginative work. I’ve never previously encountered director Alexander Zeldovich, although he’s been around a while. Anyway, I’d love some bold UK distributor to take on a film so audaciously defiant of market logic, flouting established genre and art-house logic alike. ...