The original comics of the “Maxim Osa” series are already interesting for their combination of styles and cultural features. After all, their author Ihor Baranko is considered to be a Ukrainian, French and American comic artist at the same time. And the comic itself was released thanks to the Belgian publishing house Éditions Joker in 2008. Only in 2011, a translation into Ukrainian appeared, and then there were talks about a screen adaptation. But due to production hell, the film had to wait until the fall of 2022. In the review below, we will tell you how the first Ukrainian film comic and one of the main long-standing works of the domestic cinema was produced.
“Maksym Osa and the gold of Pesyhovolets” / Maksym Osa
Genre mystical detective
Director Myroslav Latik
Starring Vasyl Kuharskyi, Olga Makeeva, Volodymyr Gurin, Serhii Denga, Albina Korzh
Release year 2022
The main character of the story, as can be understood from the title, is the Cossack Maxim Osa (Vasyl Kuharskyi). He is a brutal, rude and even repulsive character in many ways. But the Cossacks of Sichi appreciate Maxim for his ability to find safe paths in the most dangerous places. It was with such a task that he was approached again, when the Polish king sent gold to the Cossacks to prevent conflicts. But as a result, the whole squad dies, and the gold disappears. Maksym becomes the main suspect, since he was the first to appear at the scene of the crime. And now he will have to find out where the gold went, at the same time dealing with the local legend about the creepy monster Doghead.
Maxim the Wasp and the Dog-Headed Gold suffered greatly from production problems. The project was officially born in 2012, but the filming of the version that hit the cinema screens began only in 2019. Before that, the film had changed a couple of directors and was noticeably languishing due to the lack of a clear concept. World practice shows that this rarely has a positive effect on the final essay.
But in the case of Maxim Osa, everything went smoothly. In many ways, this is the merit of the director Myroslav Latyk, who in 2019 formed his view on the project and began to strictly adhere to it. For example, in matters of general stylistics and color palette, Latik was guided by Zack Snyder’s dark comic books in the DC universe.
So “Maxim the Wasp and the Gold of the Doghead” turned out to be an extremely gloomy, noir, even viscous film, which envelops you with its heavy atmosphere during viewing. The word “noir” here is not only for beauty. After all, the story of Maxim Osa is primarily a detective story.
The choice of genre solves several problems of the picture at once. Thanks to him, the story does not need extra scale and additional storylines to remain interesting. The script here is focused on a specific problem, the rest is tied exclusively to it. It can be done almost without fighting.
The detective line of the film itself is strong, but without unnecessary revelations. It does not play with the basics of the genre, instead regularly revealing bits of new information and confusing the audience. And you can kind of guess who caused all the local problems until the middle. But the film manages to manipulate the details in an interesting way so that by the end, if not to surprise, then certainly not to let you get bored.
The basis of the film is built on dialogues, which convey the spirit of the times and the mood of individual scenes quite well. Except that in some places it seems that the actors either overact or underact. And the general narrative line lacks elaboration. Instead, we have here a not so frequent case when the characters speak exactly like living people, and not script instruments. Which is also sure to be remembered by someone.
If you compare the general mood of “Maxim the Wasp and the Golden Hound” with some other famous work, the first stories that come to mind are the early stories from the “Witcher” series. There, Geralt also intervened in separate stories, which often turned out to be detective stories as well. In the case of the first Ukrainian film comic, such a comparison is a good compliment. After all, the picture looks good even in comparison with “The Witcher” from Netflix.
In principle, the movie turned out to be quite rich in unobtrusive references. The forest scenes here evoke memories of “Blair Witch”, and the last twenty minutes are imbued with the spirit of Tarantino, namely, the cruelty and grotesque pathos of “Kill Bill”. It seems that the film crew focused on their favorite films. And it is very good that their taste turned out to be excellent.
This immediately resulted in a complex direction. It’s almost academic here, with regular symmetrical shots, neat grouping of characters and nice camera pans. There are no supernatural tricks here, but what is shown is done competently and complements the other elements of the film well.
But there are some problems with the sound. There is enough good music in the film, and at times – even unexpected genres for such a story. Only, for some reason, certain scenes take place in a slightly awkward silence, even without a simple ambient, which makes them feel dull. And in some places, the dialogues are sometimes difficult to hear against the background of music and other sounds, as if the sound engineer could not turn the volume of conversations to a normal level.
The lack of massing can be both a disadvantage and a stylistic feature of the picture. In total, you will see no more than ten actors in the film for the entire duration. And if it still works for the detective component and chamber atmosphere, then the moments in the castle seem empty because of it.
However, these are nuances that depend on the subjective perception of the viewer, his preferences and background in cinematography. Because all in all, Maxim the Wasp and the Hound’s Gold turned out to be a great movie. It behaves interestingly with its mystical part, competently interacts with the characters and looks extremely aesthetic. Moreover, the local beauty was shot in the Kyiv region, which on some subconscious level pleases separately.
By the way, you don’t have to read the original comic before viewing. The story in the film adaptation turned out to be very free. And a separate funny moment – pieces from previous versions of the film, which were inserted at the end, and they also found a decent explanation for them. Such a small touch speaks of the film crew’s respect for the work of their colleagues.
Pros: interesting story, competent direction, aesthetic visual part, skilful support of intrigue Cons: some problems with sound, excessive camerawork may repel someone Conclusion:
“Maxim the Wasp and the Gold of the Doghead” does not try to establish its cinematic universe and impress with the scale of the development of the world. This is a coherent and concise story that perfectly fulfills all the tasks set before it. This movie can be advised to be watched by absolutely everyone and not for the sake of supporting Ukrainian cinematography, as is usually the case, but only in view of the fact that the film really turned out to be worthy