Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)

THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER is a very strange story about Fedor Alexandrovich, a Ukrainian artist who was four years old when the Chernobyl reactor melted down. Forced to flee and almost certainly injured by the radiation he is haunted by what happened, and a weird electronic sound that was once heard on certain radio frequencies around the world. As the result of decades of work Alexandrovich seems to have stumbled upon the possibility that the so called accident was not an accident but something more terrifying.

THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER is a heady film that truly is a trip into the mind of its subject. With the camera locked squarely on Alexandrovich we are right there with him as he takes his theories and investigates them. He’s like this great intellectual pied piper who shows you the possibility of something and as you get close to him grabs you and yanks you down the rabbit hole. It’s a genuine trip into a weird mind space that really gets you thinking about the lengths people will go to hide a major screw up.

As trippy as the story is, the film has a huge problem in that like it’s subject, it kind of goes off the rails in the middle. As Ukraine drifts into possible war with Russia and civil war Alexandrovich goes off the rails and even disappears. Without him in the center the film flounders around for a bit. What was shaping up to be one of the best films of 2015 goes banana shaped. It pulls it together in the end but once was a great time in a fun house becomes something fun but not completely satisfying.

Ultimately this is a WTF documentary about a grand conspiracy theory that may or may not amount to anything. It should be pointed out that the director thinks his subject maybe on to something but at the same time admits he's genuinely crazy. I have no idea what to think, its beautiful and mostly compelling, but it doesn’t all hang together. Don’t get me wrong it raises some interesting points, it’s just its subject blurs one too many lines.

Definitely worth seeing when it opens Friday.

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