Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5. Russia, 2014. Marmot-film. Screenplay by Aleksandr Mitta, Kristina Schneidermann. Cinematography by Sergey Machilskiy. Produced by Maksim Koroptsov, Elizaveta Lisovaya, Aleksandr Mitta. Music by Aleksey Aygi. Production Design by Eduard Galkin. Costume Design by Lyudmila Gaintseva.
Marc Chagall was born to a city on fire in Vitebsk before getting an education in art in Paris, returning to his home town to marry his sweetheart Bella and, with the birth of the Russian revolution, creating a school for artists that would show the new communist paradise at its finest. At the same time, his friend Naum was once a poet and is still in love with Bella, but after her marrying the painter decides to dedicate himself to mother Russia, as idealistic about red politics as Chagall is about pursuing fine art ideals, while Chagall continues with his school that also includes the future famous painter Kazimir Malevich. The film touches on passion and inspiration, seeking to understand where creativity matters in a world brimming over with the pursuit of material happiness and brutal control, staging it all in way that recreate a painter’s view of the world (swells of colour, impressionistic imagery), but there’s one thing keeping it from really working: it’s absolutely, downright terrible. Performances that seem like the actors are trying to overly emote so that their grandparents understand them in the back row are combined with dreadful dialogue and hackneyed direction for something that is corny nonsense from beginning to end, its mostly fictionalized storyline far from the most ridiculous thing about it. Aleksandra Mitta directs like the government is still looking over his shoulder to make sure that Soviet ideals are being injected into every frame, while the lack of nuance to any character (they’re pretty much all one-note caricatures) keep the darker moments (such as making an old aristocratic couple homeless to turn their palace into a school, the kind of compromise that would presumably lead to an ideal’s destruction) become something out of a bad high school play.