About the Film
This painfully shocking cinematic debut by Kantemir Balagov, made with the producers of Russian Ark (2002) and Faust (2011), tackles the complicated issue of ethnic and religious coexistence in a region long torn apart by sectarian war. It is worth warning that Closeness is more of a Greek tragedy than a mere love story, one where the young, Jewish Ila (a remarkable performance by Darya Zhovnar) is sacrificed as human ransom in exchange for the release of a brother kidnapped by a local band of criminals.
Working with her father in a car repair workshop in a marginalized neighbourhood in the city of Nalchik, Ila’s masculine countenance hints at her tough personality. She is a woman made of a restrained ferocity that does not explode until she and her family are in grave danger, and her fragile relationship with her Muslim lover Zalim is under threat. She knows that her life is at the mercy of destructive whims, an unbridled thirst for blood that is most evident in a scene where drunk teenagers watch a video of captive
Russian soldiers being slaughtered by Muslim extremists during the Chechen War.
The film’s title, Closeness, as well as its narrow aspect ratio, both serve as a dramatic metaphor for the political turmoil and successive catastrophes the characters have to endure, with no means to escape the uncompromising brutality of it all. The protagonist loses her freedom because there is no price on hate. Cinematographer Artem Emelianov displays that glaring contempt in provocative close-ups, nervous camera movements, and pale, frosty strokes that—in their careful combination—reflect the haunting features of relentless defeat
Kantemir Balagov was born in July 1991 in Nalchik, Russia. In 2015, he completed his studies in film directing with Alexander Sokurov in Kabardino-Balkar State University. His first feature film, Closeness,
won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Un Certain Regard section of the 70th Cannes Film Festival.