On 29 February NO-ONE, the film created by created by Vladimir and Lev Prudkin with the most fabulous cast premiered in the UK presented in the framework of Winchester Film Festival. 

From the first glance it may seem that Israeli-Ukrainian coproduction NO-ONE deals with the events of August 1991 when attempted coup d’etat put spectacular end to the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Still from NO-ONE. Dir. Lev Prudkin and Vladimir Prudkin. 2018

However closer look shows that the film has no ambition to give a realistic analysis of a bygone era. The script touches upon political events only in passing references and conversations about unfulfilled expectations and dreams. 

Another speculation is the love drama in the centre of the story – wife of the General of secret service (almighty Russian KGB) and famous actress (performed by spectacular and irresistibly seductive Natalya Vdovina) cheats on her husband (ageing but still powerful Slava Jolobov). She is cheating on him not only with a beach boy (Dmitro Sova), but also with the general’s nephew (George Marchenko). The story unfolds in the Crimea, annexed today by Russia from Ukraine, where the actress comes for a holiday. General’s nephew is also there to visit the daughter of the local boss of Communist Party (languishing beauty Liza Boyarskaya). Lovers of the actress will face inevitable revenge of the general, who in the final scene leaves Crimea – he is off to swim in the direction of Constantinople aka Istanbul aka Byzantium.

Natalya Vdovina. Still from NO-ONE. Dir. Lev Prudkin and Vladimir Prudkin. 2018

As you may already guess, love story also turns out to be not what it seems. The authors offer us mystification both when it comes to political drama and when it comes to melodrama. There is no place for love in the relations between the characters, neither they are interested in politics at all. 

Just as the Soviet empire was balancing in August 1991 on the verge of the return of the hermetic totalitarian power of the party elite and the war of all against all, the film balances between genres of drama, phantasmagoria, mystery play and high tragedy. Big characters, recognisable types, precise household sketches and the overall atmosphere of that time – all that meticulously constructed reality isdeliberately eroded and destroyed by the narration, as if sea waves were washing away a sand castle. 

Still from NO-ONE. Dir. Lev Prudkin and Vladimir Prudkin. 2018

The characters talk a lot. Sometimes pompously, sometimes even evasively, but always in high literary language, with a large number of quotations and postmodern references. At first, this theatricality of their dialogs surprises, later it draws you into the mysterious atmosphere of the circumstances, and then – opens up certain black holes in the ordinary fabric of life, through which enters the blowing wind of predestination. In the opening sequence of the film we can already feel it coming. And its whisteling and blowing reminds of the gloomy myths of russian KGB counting its bloody and eternal history from the ancient times. 

At the end of the film newsreel footage presents a clear prospect of the inevitable despair, predicted by the general with a curl on his lips. As he is both crushed by the carmic forces and carries out their verdict. He executes retribution to everyone, including himself, with his own hands, with no hesitation or mercy. During these moments Slava Jolobov, who’s playing the general, rises to the height of Shakespearean passions; we see the powerful tragic temperament of the actor at work. 

Evgeny Feklistov. Dir. Lev Prudkin and Vladimir Prudkin. 2018

We need to mention the camera that moves as if in an air-free space, intertwining light and shadow into the overwhelming atmosphere of satiate ancient Roman erotism. The sorcerous soundtrack by Evsey Evseev can safely compete with the Twin Peaks themes of Angelo Badalamenti. 

NO-ONE by Lev and Vlaimir Prudkin is a strange and enigmatic film; it requires some serious mental work from the viewer. For those who are ready for such work, it brings highly valued fruit.