Ukraine is not an occupied territory—at least not yet. Though the country’s southernmost part, Crimea, was recently annexed by Russia, Ukraine has been officially an independent nation since 1991. But judging from the recent narrative films of Belarus-born and Ukrainian-bred director Sergei Loznitsa, the experience of those living in post-Communist states is flush with occupied feelings of humiliation, oppression, dysfunction and displacement. As I write in a recent piece on Keyframe, “If there was ever a film that might metaphorically express the current political situation on the ground in Ukraine, Loznitsa’s narrative feature debut My Joy might be it.”
For those of you who are more interested in what Darren Aronofsky has done with the Biblical story of “Noah” or whatever the fuck “Divergent” is, let’s look at the latest political crisis to shake the actual world (not the fantastical ones that continue to distract us from it).
I hadn’t seen “My Joy” when it premiered at Cannes’ competition, only catching up with it later, but I wish I had. Loznitsa, working with Oleg Mutu, the masterful Romanian cinematographer who “4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days,” has crafted a haunting, enigmatic and yet mesmerizing meditation on cruelty, menace and spatial dislocation (no one knows where the hell they are in the film) that seems to resonate with Russia’s overbearing attitude towards it former Western regions, both past and, now, it seems, present.