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Split-screen Russia

Russian cinema is not so much repressed as divided. Some films dwell on a glorious lost order, but others are unflinchingly critical of the new one

By Derek Brower   April 2006

Under grey skies, past industrial detritus, through broken fences and mud, a prostitute traipses from a rural railway station to the funeral of a friend. The toothless old women of the town—the men, we presume, are dead—drink, curse and begin a bizarre orgy. They undress and juggle flaccid breasts. Febrile dogs chase shadows. A young man commits suicide in despair.

Welcome to the Russian countryside, depicted in all its misery in Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s debut film, 4 (or Chetyre). We are far from the riches of Moscow and even further from the images of the restorative countryside so familiar from popular…

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