Drinking and blogging December 8, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…are not to be combined. What was that chuff I was spouting on about 89mm being a blessing in disguise? Well, going to see it and discovering that there is a Russian cinema just down the road from me – those things were indeed blessings. The spontaneous drinking binge which ensued was not. I so can’t take my ale. And it took me all day yesterday to recover, writhing in misery and weakness.
But back to the film. I can’t find a decent link to it, but it was made by a group of 20-something Germans who decided to go to Belarus and interview people of their own age to see what life is like in Europe’s last dictatorship. The 89mm in the title is the width difference in railway gauge between Belarus (and the rest of the former USSR) (and Finland) and Poland (and the rest of Western Europe) (and world?). There’s a Russian joke about a tsar and the gauge being a cock-width wider than in the West, which I can’t be bothered to remember. And I don’t know if this is an urban myth, but allegedly the gauge is different because the Russians feared invasion. Invasion by train? How civilised! In any case, it makes for lovely, nice, wide trains, a helluva long wait at the Polish-Belarusian border and a perfect symbol to demonstrate that Belarus is the start of another world.
The film follows six young Belarusians around Minsk – a journalism student, a wannabe dancer (I’ve got a feeling her chances of success are about as good as mine), an émigré living in Berlin, a young political activist, a soldier and an ex-con. The picture it paints is mixed. Apart from the political activist, most seemed fairly unconcerned with Lukashenka and the political climate in the country, which must have Lukaphobes (like me) despairing. The journalist student understood the subject was best left alone, the soldier actually thought all was wonderful, the émigré’s family had left for political reasons (he claimed because his father was being stitched up for the disappearance of opposition figures. Yikes!), the wannabe dancer was in cloud cuckoo land and the ex-con – my favourite – just wanted to get on.
The film’s a nice portrayal of life in Belarus. There are lots of nice everyday moments that anyone who’s spent time in Russia will recognise. A bit of drunkenness here. A bit of (Bela)rus(s)ian soul there. But plenty of thoughtfulness and homespun philosophising too. Hardly a word of Belarusian to be heard, to my chagrin. And plenty of resignation to fate.
I can’t imagine this film will make it far beyond Germany’s borders, but it’s well worth keeping an eye out for. And bloody good for a group of young students for going off to Belarus and making a documentary.