Although the announcing ceremony of the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival was boycotted by important international news agencies, the film world still had no doubt as to the program of one of the most attractive film events of the year. Among the films to compete for the main festival prize, the Golden Palm, was also a new film by Belorussian director Sergei Loznitsa, Счастье мое/ MY JOY.
The character of the competition makes it clear that it is a feature film, which is interesting since Loznitsa is renowned primarily as a documentarist, and was also introduced as such by the Docalliancefilms portal, which distributes three of his powerful film-essays online. Sergei Loznitsa is an author advocating a distinct formal approach to film, evocative of minimalism in music – a constant repetition of motives, monothematicity, cyclicity – a thousand variations on simplicity. In the soundtrack, an important role is assumed by noise, sounds of movement and primarily of nature. Nature represents a key element – nature, landscape, naturality.
Within this naturality, man is composed into the picture of the landscape, without decoration, often old and more or less silent. Man is placed in the picture of the landscape both as its centre and one of its natural components.
The filmmaking of Sergei Loznitsa ranks him as one of the portrait painters of the “Russian soul”, along with the majority of great Russian filmmakers (such as Dovzhenko, Tarkovsky or Zvyagintzev), the Russian soul being not a psychological phenomenon but a metaphysical parable of the search for universal humanity, rather a question than an analysis. The interconnection of the Russian soul with the land is natural, strong and inevitable. It is for a reason that in Russian films, the camera looks down to the ground rather than up to the skies. The question to be considered is, to what degree can this “stoic” style of Loznitsa (paralleled for instance by the filmmaking of Alexander Sokurov), besides the Russian tradition in cinematography, also be under Japanese influence; Loznitsa had been translating from Japanese, so that a greater interest in Japanese culture can be expected.
The Docalliance portal offers the viewers three of Loznitsa’s films: PORTRAIT, ARTEL and LANDSCAPE. The former two were awarded at Czech festivals – in Karlovy Vary in 2003 and 2007 and in Jihlava 2007. While the film Portrait consists primarily of static scenes of human figures on the background of a landscape changing with the seasons of the year, the film Artel is anchored within a single chilly day, one of many, experienced by a group of Russian fishermen fishing on a frozen lake. Both films know no compromise in terms of style, however, due to their short footage, they represent a suitable entry into Loznitsa’s filmmaking for the viewers.
Most demanding in terms of form, the latter of the three films, Landscape, consists in a long repetitive “pan” of the camera, also revealing the inhabitants of a Russian village waiting at a bus stop. The bus has a one-hour delay; one hour also being the length of Loznitsa’s film.