Closeness Screen 7 articles



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  • Alternately tender and brutal, Balagov’s is a film filled with ugliness and beauty, often all at once—the stuff of life, in other words. History melds into memory, absorbed into the expansive landscapes that bookend the film, and the greater fabric of a family's existence. “I don't know what happened to these people after that,” says the closing narration. It's a testament to Closeness that that is more than enough.

  • Tesnota (Closeness) is the first feature by Kantemir Balagov, a young director who studied under Alexander Sokurov in Nalchik, in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, north of Georgia. The film doesn’t feel remotely like Sokurov, being nearer in its claustrophobic visual style and its dramatic concentration to the Dardennes. But Balagov, especially in his exploration of family dynamics and in his stylized use of color, establishes a signature very much his own.

  • It's a tough-minded, rigorously composed, quite brilliantly acted story of the challenges of everyday religious prejudice and ethnic divides in the bleak heart of Russia’s North Caucasus, and in many ways Balagov’s uncompromising but stylized social realism rewards as much as it punishes. But in including this real video — essentially a snuff movie — within a fiction narrative and not announcing it as such, a line is crossed.

  • Balagov’s technique is dazzling: This had more moments of pure cinematic rapture than almost any other film at Cannes this year.

  • Whatever the attitude we may take to this incursion of reality into the fictional world of Closeness, the assuredness of the performances and the brooding mobility of the camerawork signal Balagov as a filmmaker with significant promise.

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    Film Comment: Nicolas Rapold
    July 03, 2017 | July/August 2017 Issue (p. 8)

    Balagov, who studied under his coproducer, Aleksandr Sokurov (though their styles differ), has picked a fresh milieu, a vivacious character and an actress with verve, and proves he has an eye for dynamic framing (maybe even too meticulous, but it gets our attention). The film has already earned him plaudits in French papers (and the French seal of approval: a comparison to James Gray). All that remains is to see what he and Zhovner do next.

  • The film is dense, often moving, very successfully conducted. But after an hour, it freezes entirely. . . . In retrospect, it seems incredibly bold from first-time director Kantemir Balagov to have bet that we would still be able to care about the problems of his fictional characters after having been reminded so vividly of the horrors of history.

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