Memories are remnants of subjective experience, further skewed by time and the brain’s chemical disruptions. But a different sort of subjectivity is afoot when one’s memories are appropriated, conjectured over, and made material by someone else. That the material in question is film, meant for projection into other consciousnesses and destined to multiply into more memories, pushes the paradox—that biography is often more revealing of the biographers than the subject—into even more subjective territory. Andrey Khrzhanovsky positively inhales this contradiction with A Room and a Half, his epic rumination on exiled Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. It is a grand act of ventriloquism, with Khrzhanovksy marshaling the artifices of memory and history to conjure a vaguely factual, deeply felt mythology. There’s some Brodsky here, for sure, but the film is less persuasive as biopic than as a fever-dream conflation of director and subject, observation and contemplation, tactile specificity and metaphorical sweep. A grandiloquent matroshka doll, it locates within the exiled poet layers of art, family, country, and culture—interiors writ oddly large and impersonal.
Click here to read the rest of Eric Hynes’s review of A Room and a Half.