YES !! This is IT !! A Wildly enjoyable and cleverly
constructed crime drama, fascinating and bizarre and packed
to the rim of the DVD disc with social satire and black humour from
the crumbling times of the Soviet empire, 1984.
This film was made in 2007 but the US DVD was released in 2009, so this
Monstrosity of a film became my favourite
film of the year 2009. A Prime Russia pitch black kind
of Noir with some of the worst - or best - settings for a film,
really anti-settings in some godforsaken human-non-friendly industrial
town, and which grabs you as a passenger
for one of the most hypnotic and unsettling cinematic rides of your
I really can't come up with more hyperbolic praise as i start getting
tautological already, but this film is a MONSTER
and if someone had made it in USA or western europe it would've caused
The Power of this film, WOW!
Great actors, great photo, great script and direction
makes the indie monster Gruz 200 even better than Balabanov's
own Brat from 1997 and his demonic fairy tale Of
Freaks and Men from 1998, and these 2 latter were über
Unfortunately i haven't been able yet to see Aleksei Balabanov's last
3 films, as i can't find them with english subtitles
anywhere. Morfiy (Morphine) from 2008 is something extra i've heard
and my expectations for this one is Sky High,
but the Russian release is without english subs and i can't find any
other release of this supposedly Great Film.
The Stoker made in 2010, another pitch-black indie
drama, has got great reviews and could be released in the UK
sometime ... maybe, and finally his last film Me Too
from 2012 i haven't seen either.
Note 2020-11-03: Me Too (Ya tozhe khochu) another masterpiece and you
can read the review at the top of my page
In Brat (The Brother, 1997) and Zhmurki (Dead Man's
Bluff, 2005) Balabanov satirizes the post-Soviet 1990's Boris
Jeltsin era with it's Wild West chaos capitalism and gangsterism with
the plundering of Russia by oligarchs. In Gruz 200
he instead flogs the 1980's Soviet era with it's crumbling system and
an assortment of bewildered people and freaks.
Maybe satirizing the growing idolization in nowadays Russia of the "Good"
old Stalin and Soviet Union times?
Gruz 200 - The Story:
We're in a small dreary town somewhere in the Soviet
Union and the year is 1984 with the ongoing war in Afghanistan
going bad and the Empire is crumbling, Free-Falling. The film starts
with a conversation between 2 middle-aged brothers
somewhere around 50 or so, Artem (or Artyom) played by Leonid Gromov
a university professor in ateism philosophy
and Mikhail (Yuri Stepanovich) a lieutenant. Both of them feel obsolete
and the New Russia is waiting just around the
corner. Artem is visiting his brother on his way to their mother in
the abominable industry town of Leninsk, probably a
fictious town even though there are places with that name, i.a. in Siberia.
On his way again, his car breaks down out on the countryside and he
seeks help from some local moonshiners living on
a farm. He meets Aleksei (Aleksei Serebryakov), his wife Antonina (Natalya
Akimova), the vietnamese Sunka and .....
a quiet man (Aleksei Poluyan), who we later will get
to know as Zhurik/Zhurov, a man you will never forget, i promise.
On their way to buy some moonshine vodka are 2 youngsters,
Mikhail's daughter's boyfriend Valeri (Leonod Bichevin)
and his friend Angelika (Agniya Kuznetsova) .... unfortunately due to
nastiness awaiting them ahead.
This unusual film vibrates with "glorious" unpleasantness
and you feel more and more discomfortable the longer it's
running, especially when getting to know Zhurik, but still there's some
black humour here. In the philosophical context you
can somewhat understand the professor of ateism Artem's decision to
abandon his beliefs and seek order in chaos.
Aleksei Balabanov continues with his flogging of his
beloved Russia, and this time the final years of the Soviet Union era
with it's corruption, disintegration of norms, copious consumption of
Vodka and with it's bewildered and confused
citizens, all victims of the gigantic and failed communistic project.
Balabanov does it with a humorous glint in his eye,
and even though the happenings in this film mostly are of the grisly
kind you can't help taking a liking to many of the
people in this film .... well, not the one's that has turned into beasts
and certainly not Zhurik.
The films title Gruz 200 is referring to the transports of dead russian
soldiers from the then ongoing Afghanistan war.
It's a brilliant film, BRILLIANT and it's a shame and a tragedy that
Balabanov was/is mostly unknown outside of
Russia, when much, much lesser directors - infantile hipsters or pretentious
bores are hailed here, and Balabanov for
sure was no bore. Aleksei Balabanov 25/2 1959 - 18/5 2013 a Great filmmaker.
widescreen 1.85:1 with russian audio 2.0 with english subtitles - this
US DVD was only just passable with an often
shaky transfer and let's hope that his films will be released on a Bluray
with english subtitles someday.
And yes, i forgot, the Soundtrack to this film was great too, by Leonid
Fyodorov (from the group Auktyon).
Gruz 200 was met with acclaim and won i.a. Russian Guild
of Film Critics 2007 Best Film award, won at the Rotterdam
International Film Festival, the Gijón International Film Festival
and won the Polish Filmmakers Critic award