Pros: a plot reminiscent of the lives of those who turned out to be of no use to anyone; the song “Plive Choven” performed by the group “DakhaBrakha”; a successful depiction of provincial realities; cinematography Cons: the film falls under the art-house category, so the perception may seem drawn out and in some places incomprehensible “Volcano” / Volcano
Genre drama, comedy
Director Roman Bondarchuk
Starring Sergei Stepansky (Lucas), Viktor Zhdanov (Vova), Kristina Deylik (Marushka)
Studios Tato Film, South, Elemag Pictures
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The film “Volcano” was ready for release on the big screen last year. Before the film was released, it was presented at international film festivals. There, film critics drew attention to “Volcano,” and in several countries the film was even awarded prizes (among them the Grand Prix of the Split Film Festival). It is quite interesting whether foreign viewers were able to fully understand the plot, which shows the realities of the Ukrainian province, whose residents exist on their own against the backdrop of reports of the occupation of Ukrainian territories.
“Volcano” introduces the viewer to a Kyivian resident named Lucas, who accompanies OSCE representatives to Crimea. In the Kherson region, their car breaks down, and the main character is trying to find someone who can help them. So he ends up in a private house where Vova’s father, his 18-year-old daughter Marushka and grandmother Musya live. It seems that they, like other residents of a small village, are stuck somewhere between the distant past (the times of the liquidation of collective farms) and an uncertain present with rare echoes of civilization. To return, Lucas is forced to interact with people from a reality that is distant to him. Gradually he accepts what seemed wild to him and changes his behavior.
Interestingly, “Volcano” was supposed to be a documentary about a resident of a town near the Kakhovka reservoir. The man died before filming began, but during their communication with him, the creative team managed to collect a lot of material, which was transferred to the script of the feature film. The memory of an interesting hero was embodied in the character Uncle Vova, played by Viktor Zhdanov (“Cyborgs”). He is the only professional artist with experience in the cast of Vulcan.
The main role in the film was played by sound director Sergei Stepansky, who previously worked on the sound of the Ukrainian drama “Tribe”, as well as on the film version of the concert of the group “Okean Elzy”. His acting debut can be considered successful largely due to the specific character of Lucas, who is dumbfounded by the provincial order and methods of survival of ordinary people. There is not much dialogue in the film; the main focus is on the hero’s worldview, which director Roman Bondarchuk relies on. The main female character also belongs to a newcomer to big cinema – Kristina Deilik, who becomes a representative of the younger generation in a long-aging village.
Before “Volcano,” Roman Bondarchuk worked on documentaries (his film “Ukrainian Sheriffs” was nominated by Ukraine for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film). Apparently, in feature films, the director retained the desire to document reality and show heroes with certain types. In most of the scenes in Vulcan, he placed a lot of minor characters who have nothing to do with acting. For this reason, some of the lines sound a little unnatural, but at the same time the feeling of the reality of what is happening does not leave the viewer. It’s all about the details of everyday life, clothing, and the behavior of local residents. In each episode, echoes of forced adaptation to the conditions of the post-Soviet space are visible – everything seemed to freeze more than twenty years ago. Now, on a large piece of land, generations change, but not living conditions.
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The creators of the film “Volcano” position it as a dramatic comedy. There is much more sadness in it than funny. However, the film subtly catches the comedy in adapting to an extreme situation and reminds that life goes on in any conditions. To all this, the director adds a little surrealism, giving the viewer the freedom of imagination and interpretation of the ending of the film.
“Volcano” contains many symbols and stories that are important to the area in which filming took place. For example, the huge watermelon on the side of the road that the main character sees actually stands near the highway in the Kherson region. The director also shows an episode with watermelon plantation workers working for little pay, and demonstrates a pit in the steppe, which serves as punishment for the disobedient. Everything that can be taken as grotesque in the film is based on the truth.
It is worth noting that “Volcano,” like most other festival films, is not a mass film. Its essence is scattered across panoramic shots, scenes of silence and the hero’s attempts to accept what is happening. We can safely say that this is a Ukrainian art house. A high-quality, relevant, strange and at the same time meaningful film product.
“Volcano” is good progress for Ukrainian cinema. Due to its specific nature, the film is unlikely to attract full houses, but there will certainly be those who will appreciate its tragic comedy.