Wild Field



Venice Film Festival, Horizons

A little jewel tucked away in Venice Horizons, "Wild Field" could be called magic realism of the Russian steppes, if the film didn't have such a unique filmic voice that categories escape it. A young doctor lives by himself on the timeless plain, treating stab and gunshot wounds, heart attacks and the occasional dying cow. In the primitive world of the Wild Field, dead men come back to life and God may or may not exist. Sensitively directed by Mikhail Kalatozishvili, grandson of Mikhail Kalatozov ("The Cranes Are Flying"), film is something fests will seize on, though it will have trouble jumping out of the festival pond.

In the Wild Field, time is truly frozen and it scarcely matters that the fascinating script, written by cult screenwriters Pyotr Lutsik and Alexei Samoryadov, dates back to the early 90's. The story unfurls as a series of tall tales involving brutes, bumpkins, and alcohol-addled ranchers who stampede wild horses over the steppe and have Far West shoot-outs with their neighbors.

Tall, lanky Mitya (Oleg Dolin, a stage actor who resembles Tony Perkins) has somehow ended up here in a small frame house straight out of "Bonanza". Unflappably calm, he uses his wits to keep his patients alive. A big stone in the middle of the yard is his visiting room and the bed on which his patients lie. His surgical instruments are so few they can be stored in a tin candy box, and the only medicine available is a few laxatives and wild flowers. Yet the Wild Field is full of amazing remedies for those who know where to look.

A man of few words, Mitya distinguishes himself by his education and strong moral fiber. When the local teenage beauty Gala (Irina Butanayeva) drives by to seduce him, he isn't tempted. Sadly, when Katya (Daniela Stoyanovich), the woman he's waiting for, finally appears, she announces she's married someone else and vanishes.

In a scene with religious overtones, a young cowherd who has been struck by lightning is pronounced dead, yet the locals bury him up to the neck, certain he'll revive. Sure enough, the next morning he's pulled out of the ground as if resurrected. The first question they ask him is whether he saw God? The boy, and the film, give no answer.

Glancing, never direct, Kalatozishvili lets the audience write the end to this black-humored parable about good and evil. Is life senseless? Does God exist? And why do men feel the need to launch music into space? The film is wonderfully cast and shot and edited with discipline.

Production company: Mikhail Kalatozov Fund, Barmaley Film Studio.
Cast: Oleg Dolin, Alexandr Ilyin, Sr., Alexandr Ilyin, Jr., Roman Madyanov, Irina Butanayeva, Daniela Stoyanovich, Pyotr Stupin, Yuri Stepanov, Alexandr Korshunov.
Director: Mikhail Kalatozishvili.
Screenwriters: Pyotr Lutsik, Alexei Samoryadov.
Producer: Mikhail Kalatozishvili, Sergei Snezhkin, Andrei Bondarenko.
Director of photography: Pyotr Dukhovskoy.
Production designer: Sergei Avstrievskikh.
Music: Alexei Aigi.
Costumes: Olga Farafonova.
Editor: Mikhail Kalatozishvili.
Sales Agent: Intercinema, Moscow.
104 minutes.