Saturday, July 30, 2011

Update 4

Last schedule for this year’s festival!

Chiang Mai movies – EU Film Festival Listings, Update 4

by Thomas Ohlson

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Below (Chart 5) are some comments on the films showing today (Saturday, July 30) and tomorrow (Sunday, July 31). I did it! I got the comments out! Whew!

Be advised that there are overflowing crowds at some screenings, for which the size of Cinema 7 is not at all sufficient. Plan on getting there early if you hope for a seat; many are sitting on the floor.

On Sunday there was a miscalculation when figuring the schedule, leaving them short by about half an hour for the film Cell 211. As a result, the last two films on Sunday have revised start times (4:40 pm for Cell 211 and 7:05 or thereabouts for An Ordinary Execution). Check at the EU Festival Desk outside Vista Cinema 7.

However, give it some leeway anyway, just to be sure. Remember that Vista staff have a tendency to start the last movie of the day ten or fifteen minutes early, so they can go home sooner. One of their traditions.

EU 2011 - Chart 5

EU Film Festival 2011 – Chart 5: Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31 – Prepared by Thomas Ohlson

At Vista Theater 7, 4th Floor, Kadsuankaew, Chiang Mai

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

1 PM



The Magic Tree (2009)


Original Title:              Magiczne drzewo

Country :                   POLAND

Category :                 Adventure

Director :                   Andrzej Maleszka

Principal Cast :           Agnieszka Grochowska, Andrzej Chyra, Hanna Śleszyńska

Length :                     1 hr 30 min               


Once upon a time, there was a magic tree – a huge, old oak-tree. Not aware of its power, people cut it down and made hundreds of objects out of its wood. The wood kept its magic power and the objects made strange things happen after arriving in shops around the world.

Polish Film Festival in America: When the magic tree in Andrzej Maleszka's Magic Tree is struck by lightning, the locals chop it into pieces to be made into furniture and sold all over the world. Now, the magic in the tree has been spread throughout every piece, causing strange events to unfold all over the world. One day, three children find a chair made from the tree that will make any dream come true. Stuck with their mean aunt while the kids' parents are away on work, the children decide to use the chair to find their parents. With a little bit of magic to help them deal with their aunt, the children set off on a wild adventure that also includes escaping those who want the chair's power for themselves. Filled with imagination and fun adventure, this film is sure to amaze kids and parents alike.


The film is loosely developed from the 2007 International Emmy Award-winning live-action TV series of the same name that aired on Telewizja Polska from 2004 to 2006.


Exciting trailer:


2:40 PM



The Hell of ’63 (2010)          

Original Title:              De hel van '63

Country :                   NETHERLANDS

Category :                 Sports/ Action

Writer/Director :          Steven de Jong

Principal Cast :           Chris Zeegers, Willeke van Amelrooy, Pierre Bokma            

Length :                     1 hr 48 mins


The Netherlands has many lakes and canals. In winter, when conditions are right, an infamous 200 km ice-skating race is held. This film is based on true facts of the racing day in 1963, when thousands of skaters suffered frostbite and shocking injuries. Only a small number would cross the finish line.

For a trailer (Dutch) check out

IMDb viewer: I was pleasantly surprised to see what a good movie Steven de Jong made of the events that took place on this day in 1963 when 10,000 people started an ice-skating tour that only 69 would bring to an end. The story brings four people together that have different reasons for taking part in the tour. The stories are nicely brought together. We also get a good feel of how harsh this tour was. The cinematography is on a high level and the music is great. I would recommend this to anyone who like to see a realistic fight for survival on the ice.


IMDb viewer: I enjoyed every minute of this icy ride about the world’s longest ice-skating tour. Director Steven de Jong has provided new hope for Dutch cinema by doing an excellent job. The 'elfstedentocht' (tour of eleven cities) van '63 was a unique and timeless event that deserved a great film like this and I am happy to have experienced this. This whole movie is just excellent and two points deserve special attention: The actors in this movie are very natural. And that just makes them and the movie as a whole much more convincing. The second great thing is the camera-work. To give some grandeur to this movie the camera often swings into great heights, crawls under the ice, and/or fades from a film-image to a map and vice-versa. The accompanying music creates effects not seen before in Dutch cinema. It really lifts this movie to another level and creates refreshing perspectives. Steven de Jong even portrayed the harsh element of wind in the form of luring icy animals. Something completely unexpected.

4:40 PM

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)                     

Country :                   UK


Category :                 Art / Documentary

Director :                   Jaimie D’Cruz

Principal Cast :           Banksy, Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash)


Length :                     1 hr 26 mins


An eccentric shop-keeper turned amateur film-maker attempts to capture many of the world’s most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results. The inside story of Street Art – a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money, and vandalism collide.

Nominated for Best Documentary, 2010 Academy Awards. Reviews: Universal acclaim. [per Rotten Tomatoes]

Rated R in the US for some language.

By far the most unusual film this year in my opinion. It may be a gigantic hoax, with the purported artists in the movie purely made up, or a fine send-up of art-world pretentions. You have to decide for yourself. IMDb describes it as a documentary comedy. The producers label it, “The world's first Street Art disaster movie.” Bansky says, "It's basically the story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed." And just who is Bansky? Read on.

Los Angeles based Frenchman Thierry Guetta, an eccentric French shop keeper turned documentary-maker, gets the idea that he would like to film street artists in the process of creating their work. He tells them that he is making a documentary, when in reality he has no intention of editing the footage into one cohesive movie. Unaware of this latter fact, many street artists from around the world agree to participate. Thierry even gets into the act by assisting them in creating the art. One of the artists that participates is the camera-shy Brit Banksy, who refuses to be shown on screen unless he is blacked out. He is a graffiti artist with apparently a global reputation whose work can be seen on walls from post-hurricane New Orleans to the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank. Bansky fiercely guards his anonymity to avoid prosecution. He convinces Thierry to use the footage to make a movie. As Thierry does, Banksy comes to the realization that Thierry is a lousy filmmaker, but he is an interesting character in an odd yet appealing way. So Banksy decides to use the footage himself and add additional material to make his own movie about Thierry's journey in this project. Since Thierry spent so much time involved in the process of street art, Banksy also convinces Thierry to become a street artist himself. Thierry reinvents himself as street artist MBW, an acronym for "Mr. Brainwash".

Includes footage of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Invader, and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work, on walls, and in interview.

Rotten Tomatoes: An amusing, engrossing look at underground art, Exit Through the Gift Shop entertains as it deflates the myths and hype surrounding its subjects.

Check out an extended “explanation” (in English) at:

6:15 PM

Forbidden Fruit (2009)

Original Title:              Kielletty hedelmä / Förbjuden frukt

Country :                   FINLAND

Category :                 Drama

Director :                   Dome Karukoski

Writer:                       Aleksi Bardy

Principal Cast :           Marjut Maristo, Amanda Pilke, Malla Mamivaara

Length :                     1 hr 40 mins

Two 18-year-old girls from a very restrictive Christian community go to Helsinki for the first time. Maria wants to see what the outside world is like before getting married, and try out things that are forbidden at home. Raakel only wants to make sure Maria returns. The summer changes the life of one of the girls - for good.


Trailer (English):


Rotten Tomatoes: Though seldom discussed outside of Scandinavia, Finland houses one of the most conservative religious communities in Western Europe. The Laestadians, a group of about 110,000 people, recall the Mennonites with their insistence on taking scripture literally and forbidding their members from partaking in all pleasures deemed hedonistic and "worldly" -- such as dancing, premarital sex, alcohol, television, movies, and birth control. Director Dome Karukoski's melodramatic, brooding, coming-of-age feature Forbidden Fruit examines how two Laestadian teens cope with the impositions foisted upon them by the surrounding community. At the center of it all is Maria (Amanda Pilke), a brass-tongued young woman who rejects the Laestadian community's asceticism straightaway and moves to metropolitan Helsinki. Alongside her headfirst plunge into a no-holds-barred lifestyle, she rationalizes her choices by leaning on the idea that she can always return to the Laestadians and have her sins washed clean at a later point. Meanwhile, the community elders grow deeply concerned over Maria's decision to leave the fold, and send the young woman's best friend, über-conservative Raakel (Marjut Maristo) out into the world to bring the prodigal back. Unsurprisingly, Raakel adores the worldly pleasures she experiences and soon caves into them, demonstrating no desire whatsoever to return to the cocoon of self-denial in which she was kept. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi


Filmsweep, Persona: It's a coming of age story, but not typical at all. There's a huge, much appreciated amount of restraint here that you don't find in many coming of age movies. ...

Finland's Laestadian (Lutheran) sect is a rural faith-based community of Biblical literalism, and it's in a commune of this understanding that our story begins. In dealing with the strict religious ideals, director Karukoski holds off judgment well. He spends a good amount of time capturing the wholesomeness here, the God-based, family-based values that are center in the communal focus.

Maria, now eighteen, decides she wants to have a summer of fun in the city. The Laestadians teach that the city and the body are basically bad; they are cunning and powerful and lead to temptation and separation from God -- maybe even separation from faith itself. The "Arch Fiend" is everywhere -- but especially in your body and in places found outside the collective.

According to Laestadian conduct Maria is old enough to decide for herself, and she eventually decides to see, and be a part of, the world outside. The community asks her best friend, Raakel, to go and be with her, to help her through this moment of fascination. Raakel moves to the city and finds her friend -- they'll only stay one summer before moving back home, and Raakel has a "magic word" she can say at any time in which Maria will agree to return home immediately.

They work in a factory and find a small apartment to call home. They discover movies. They discover alcohol. And dancing and clubs. They discover the allure of sexual temptation and kissing and things forbidden. They wrestle with their upbringing concerning all things taboo. They meet boys. They meet Maria's sister, who left the community years ago, and hasn't been welcomed back.

They are longing for love, the kind they've not encountered. The kind where the touch of a boy might bring comfort and warmth.

Every moment, whether day or night, inside or out, city or country, is beautifully shot. There's a softer, more melancholy, utterly Finnish feel. Think: a better looking Kaurismäki. That repressed Finnish vibe that Kaurismäki, a true Finnish auteur, portrays so well, is prevalent in Forbidden Fruit in image as well as mood. I've spent a good bit of time in Finland -- this feels, to me, Finnish to the core.

There's a reversal of sorts and a twist along the way, but not the M. Night kind of twist that's supposed to jump out at us. Everything seems to follow logically and it gradually adds up to a final bus ride to the city that's as hopeful as it is full of fear.

The only reason I got to see this wonderful Finnish film is that Sweden's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sold out -- even the press couldn't find a remaining seat. I'm glad, because I know that that film will receive higher distribution and will certainly (eventually) get talked about at length. But, like Härö's Letters to Father Jacob, another much talked about Finnish movie from last year -- and like Finland in general, which is often in the shadow of other Scandinavian countries -- no one knows how wide a release Forbidden Fruit will get. Which is a real shame. It's so beautifully acted and so thoughtfully directed, it's captured so well and comes across as stunning in its own quiet way. I really can't get over it right now. I'm just hoping there are more great movies to see at the EU Film Fest. I'm sure there are -- but I think I may have seen my favorite one first.

It's a perfect film. I really think it is.  I'll be surprised if I find another that's as moving as it is well made..


IMDb Viewer: Dome Karukoski can be called one of the most prominent Finnish film directors right now, having achieved success among both the public and popular critics with all of his films so far. Following the hip hop-flavored romance Beauty and the Bastard (2005) and the serious drama The Home of Dark Butterflies (2008), Karukoski's third feature film Forbidden Fruit examines common themes of finding one's place in the world when leaving one's home for the first time.

8:05 PM



Dust (2009)

Country :                   LUXEMBOURG

Category :                 Romance/ Drama

Writer/Director :          Max Jacoby

Principal Cast :           Catherine Steadman, Olly Alexander, Andrew Hawley

Length :                     1 hr 26 min


The film is in English. Has been quite disliked by the Chiang Mai festival crowd. Reports are that 25 people walked out of the first showing.


“In a depopulated world after a non-specified war the teenage twins Elodie and Elias live in a secluded mansion left by their parents. They lead a quiet and simple life, growing their own food, swimming in a nearby lake, reading books and playing chess. With the unexpected arrival of Gabriel, their harmonic relationship is about to come to an end.”


Pro: Dust is what good cinema is all about. The great thing about movies as a storytelling device is the way it reveals a story through images and sounds. Film is not really about dialog; it’s about presentation. Director Max Jacoby utilizes the full spectrum of what is available in the form to his advantage. Little is said in this movie because the camera and soundtrack take up that narrative role more than any dialog could. Jacoby, through cinematographer Fredrik Bächar, is an expert in blocking and framing. Every shot seems intended to give you a clue about what these three characters are thinking and feeling. It could be choice in focus, a slow dolly into one character’s face, someone intentionally cropped out of the frame, or someone moving in or out of the frame. The sound design also plays a strong role, with liberal use of offscreen sounds. We hear a door open and we wonder; we hear the crackling of glass under footsteps and realize something happened here; we hear the arrival of a car and we feel what that means.

In essence, Dust is a post-apocalyptic love triangle. But the setting is not simply a device. The environment and situation almost acts as a fourth character...


Con: Add a snail’s pace to very very little action about a small and boring love triangle set in some upper class version of post apocalyptic paradise and you have Dust. This is one of those movies where you really wonder what the heck the creative team are up to -- save the usual art-house killer cinematography and crunchy use of sound Dust tells a story in 82 minutes that should have been told in 22. Just long enough to be a half hour TV show. Which is too bad, but you have to understand very few of the ingredients in Dust make for a great story. But it is weird in its relentless foot-dragging to go nowhere.




Sunday, July 31, 2011

Please note time changes! Still, take them with a grain of salt and plan on some leeway. Remember that Vista projectionists have a history going back at least ten years of starting the last film of the day early so they can leave early.


Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

1 PM



Kooky (2010)


Original Title :             Kuky se vrací

Country :                   CZECH REPUBLIC

Category :                 Family/ Live Action with Puppets, Animation

Director :                   Jana Svěráka

Principal Cast :           Zdeněk Svěrák , Jiří Macháček, Petr Čtvrtníček


Length :                     1 hr 35 min


Six-year-old Ondra is forced to throw away his old teddy bear Kooky. But Kooky comes to life and makes his escape into a mysterious forest where he meets Hergot, the forest's guardian. Hergot, however, has enemies who plan to take over the forest by proving that he is not up to his job.

A film for the entire family. Young Ondra has asthma and so his mom throws away his favorite toy: a musty old stuffed bear named Kooky. That night Ondra dreams that Kooky is determined to find his way back home from the dump. In the boy's fantasy, the bear gets lost in a forest occupied by strange animals and remarkable beings that he never heard of while living on the toy shelf in Ondra's room. And of course even in this small imaginary world, true good exists as does real evil, which Kooky must face up to in order to become a real hero.


The film combines techniques of puppet animation, stop motion, and live action.


IMDb viewer: the visual aspect of the movie is simply brilliant! No one can deny this. And ... the music is brilliant as well!


IMDb viewer: After the viewing came out with my spirits soaring and a huge grin of satisfaction firmly planted on my face. The plot of this puppet movie is rather simple. ... And that childish perspective is what gives the magical feeling to this story - a child is telling the story and all the reasoning behind everything that happens to Kooky is limited to child's imagination, which is rather simple yet fascinating.



2:45 PM



Bánk bán (2002)


Country :                   HUNGARY

Category :                 Historical/ Music/ Opera/ Drama

Director :                   Csaba Káel

Principal Cast :           Kolos Kováts, Eva Marton, Andrea Rost              

Length :                     1 hr 56 mins


In 13th century Hungary, King Endre II is fighting abroad while his German-born Queen plays host to the leading members of the Court, mostly foreigners, at prodigal feasts. The King's deputy, Bánk Bán tours the poverty-ridden country, while the Queen's younger brother tries to seduce Bánk's beautiful wife. A group of Hungarian nobles, anxious for the fate of their homeland and the honour of Bánk's wife, plot a conspiracy against the Queen.


Historical and musical note: Bánk bán is an opera in 3 Acts by composer Ferenc Erkel. The work uses a Hungarian language libretto by Banjámin Galambos which is based on a stage play of the same name by József Katona. (Bán is ban in English, similar to a viceroy, a duke, or palatine.) The main storyline is based on the assassination of Queen Gertrúd, wife of Andrew II in 1213. The opera was first performed at the Pesti Nemzeti Magyar Szinház, Budapest, on 9 March 1861.

IMDb viewer: The film figuratively comes off the screen with splendor and lyricism. As it is a rendition of the famous Hungarian medieval opera and photographed lovingly by Hungarian-American Vilmos Zsigmond, performed by Hungary's best operatic voices, a presentation of sumptuously beautiful landscape and classical architecture, "Bank ban" holds a tremendous treasure for the viewer. Images haunt one's unconsciousness long after the experience.


IMDb viewer: Fine example of how to film an opera!

Given the cinematographer of this movie, it's probably not surprising that the visuals are superb. The directing is also first-rate, not stagy at all, but still managing to leave plenty of room for the singing. Csaba Káel managed to combine some of the best parts of film and opera. We get both the intimate moments that film is capable of showing, and the grand majesty of the chorus singing amidst a splendor of costumes and sets. Special kudos to Andrea Rost for making full use of this opportunity to act out the small things; her Melinda is completely human, a rare feat for a character in an opera.

Overall, the costumes were good at evoking a feeling of time and place, without giving more than a cursory nod to period-correctness. This is probably good, because the music itself is firmly planted in 19th century romanticism; true 12th century costuming would have felt wrong.

Overall, the film is quite satisfying. The setting looks real (probably because, apart from one small interior, it was all filmed on location), the plot is nicely developed and explained, the roles are all well-cast, well-sung, and well-acted (there wasn't a ham in the bunch, which is a minor miracle), the special effects flow perfectly, and the music is gorgeous..


Filming note: Almost ninety per cent of Bánk Bán was shot on location in Hungary, using many ancient historical monuments. Most

scenes were shot in actual thirteenth century cathedrals and chapels.

The entire 2-hour film of the opera with English subtitles can be viewed at

4:40 PM


Note time change!

Cell 211 (2009)


Original Title:              Celda 211

Country :                   SPAIN

Category :                 Thriller/ Action/ Drama

Writer/Director :          Daniel Monzón

Principal Cast :           Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann, Antonio Resines


Length :                     1 hr 53 min


Newly hired prison officer Juan Oliver finds himself in the midst of a prison riot after an unforeseen turn of events. With the inmates around him unaware of his position, he must pretend to be a prisoner to survive.


Generally favorable reviews, Rotten Tomatoes. A multi-award-winning film.


Empire Magazine, Kim Newman: An outstanding thriller, with enough political and character strokes to lift it out of the straight genre category - but rough and tough enough to stand alongside any given Hollywood hardman buddy vehicle.

ViewLondon, Matthew Turner: Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerful Spanish prison drama with terrific performances from Alberto Ammann and Luis Tosar.

What Culture, Shaun Munro: On the surface this is a relatively familiar prison thriller, yet when executed with panache of such disarming brutality and tension, it finds room to distinguish itself in an overcrowded genre..

Daily Express, Henry Fitzherbert: Director Daniel Monzon's picture - very well acted by the leads - manages to combine extremely clever, unpredictable plotting with plausible but unexpected character development, elevating standard genre fare to something much more substantial.

Boston Globe, Wesley Morris: What this movie lacks in plausibility (which is almost everything), it makes up for with authentic adrenaline -- and Spanish Goya Awards (it won eight this year).

Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan: The cast is uniformly strong, Monzon's direction riveting. For his portrayal of Malamadre, a villain both honorable and evil, Tosar won a well-deserved award at this year's Goya awards (the Spanish Oscars), along with Ammann and Etura. Monzon took home the award for best director; the film itself won four additional prizes, including best picture.

It's easy to see why, though there's nothing easy about this tough and beautiful tale.

Contains frequent, bloody violence and rioting, near-constant obscenity, partial nudity, sexual references, brief sensuality and drug use. In Spanish and Basque with English subtitles.

7:05 PM



Note time change!

An Ordinary Execution (2010)            


Original Title:              Une exécution ordinaire

Country :                   FRANCE

Category :                 Drama/ History

Writer/Director :          Marc Dugain

Principal Cast :           André Dussollier, Marina Hands, Edouard Baer            

Length :                     1 hr 45 mins


1952: a young urologist practicing in a Moscow hospital desperately tries to get pregnant from her husband, a disillusioned physician who only survives thanks to the love for his wife. To her horror, she must treat Stalin. Now amiable, then perverse, the dictator delivers his art of terror in ways that the couple has never been seen before.


Generally favorable reviews (Rotten Tomatoes): “Novelist Marc Dugain both wrote and directed this screen adaptation of his novel about the last days of one of the 20th Century's most infamous leaders. In 1952, Jospeh Stalin (Andre Dussollier) is in failing health after a long tenure as the unquestioned ruler of the Soviet Union. Stalin is also in the market for a new personal physician, as his longtime doctor has fallen to one of the leader's frequent purges of people he regards as untrustworthy. Anna (Marina Hands) is a doctor who has a fine rapport with her patients, and some believe she has a gift for healing that goes beyond the abilities of modern medicine. Anna is recruited by Stalin's underlings to become the ruler's new doctor. Anna and Stalin get along well at first, but as he opens up to her, she discovers that beneath his charm is emotional instability and a vindictive streak that borders on madness. Anna also gets a personal taste of the dictator's methods when she mentions her troubles having a child with her husband Vasily (Edouard Baer); not long after Stalin recommends a divorce, Vasily is visited by the secret police and ends up in a forced labor camp. While Anna has sworn to do no harm, she begins to ponder just what is at stake as she tries to keep Stalin alive and well. Une Execution Ordinaire (aka An Ordinary Execution) was an official selection at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival.” ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


For a trailer (French) check out

BBC Radio Times: In this austere if somewhat academic drama, first-time director Marc Dugain draws on his own bestselling novel to speculate on the conspiracy-shrouded demise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Evoking memories of the last Tsarina's relationship with Rasputin, the action centres on the (fictional) secret treatment sessions that an ailing Stalin (André Dussollier) receives from Anna (Marina Hands), a doctor famed for her unconventional healing techniques. The young woman is sworn to secrecy, but that doesn't stop the paranoid tyrant from having her husband (Edouard Baer) tortured to ensure her loyalty. With the help of cinematographer Yves Angelo's brooding Kremlin atmosphere, Dugain concentrates on the tensions between Stalin and Anna, as he rambles disconcertingly and seeks to justify his reign of terror, while she attempts to retain her sang-froid in the presence of such impenitent inhumanity. The result is a film that's impeccably played and chillingly compelling.

Eye for Film: Historical dramas have a habit of falling rather awkwardly into a neither fish nor fowl department that leaves you wondering which parts are fact and which are embellishment. Debut director Marc Dugain - adapting and directing from his own novel - avoids this problem by taking a real person, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin and setting him in an almost purely fictional narrative. This allows Dugain the freedom to explore what makes a dictator tick, rather than to get hung up on trying to slavishly recreate the last few months before Stalin's death. The fact that this is a French film about Russia also frees the narrative up, stripping out any need to reference modern politics that might spring from a film made locally, so that it becomes focused almost entirely on the characters and their motivations. ...

Often, debut features are marked out by interesting direction but problematic scripting and here, the problem is something of the reverse. The direction is little more than workmanlike and the budget limitations show, although Yves Angelo adds a sickly bleakness to his colour palette that feels as beaten down as the film's characters. In narrative terms, however, Dugain completely captures the sense of Stalin as being utterly mad in his "sanity", as one character says early on: "Stalin has his own logic."

The dictator's cold and almost throw-away disregard for human life is enough to inspire a sharp intake of breath, such as when, while being aided by Anna, he proceeds to pepper the conversation with details of her husband's torture. It is the casual nature of his cruelty that makes this film such a compelling watch. The presence of the word "ordinary" in the film's title nods to Stalin's indifferent attitude to those he kills, while his own quote, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic", at the end of the film is a stark reminder of his offhand attitude to slaughter. reviewer: This is a French film based on the final days of Stalin. So although they are all supposed to be Russian they speak French and not with a Russian accent. It centers around a young female doctor (Marina Hands), who has remarkable healing powers in her hands. I am not sure if she is a faith healer or does Raki or something, we are just asked to accept this fact.

 Her colleagues are either jealous or fancy her, and as you could be denounced at the drop of a hat, she lives in constant fear of what may happen. She is married and deeply in love, but they are unable to have a child, so they keep practicing with the vigor of newlyweds, causing more envy from the neighbors. One day the secret police turn up at the hospital and take her away. She soon finds out the Comrade Stalin (Andre Dussollier) has got to hear about her healing skills, and wants a bit of treatment. He has a stipulation that she is not allowed to tell a soul about their arrangement. This includes her family – especially her husband. After reflection Stalin decides that having her word might not be enough.

This is an interesting film, but far from an exciting one. There are moments of cruel clarity and heightened tension, most notably from Dussollier’s performance of the monster Stalin. Those moments though are not enough to sustain the momentum. However, it manages to capture the mood and sterility of the time really well. If you are interested in post WW 2 history then this will be of interest, if you are looking for some sort of fast paced, drama with some action, then you should give it a pass.