Film Criticism: Subject No. 6

Juho Kuosmanen, the Finnish director of Subject #6Of his own films he has said, “Basically, they’re boring.” And it’s true that not much happens in this case, Deborah Ross said in The audience. It is set during a long train journey across Russia in 1998. Seidi Haarla plays Laura, a Finnish archeology student who travels to Murmansk in the north of the country to see some Stone Age rock carvings.

As she boards the train, she is dismayed to learn that she shares her sleeper car with a “ball-headed, tough-looking, chain-smoking, vodka-sipping Russian” Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), who drunkenly grabs her crotch. It seems that “there’s no way this couple is going to bond” — but little by little they are. This is a “character-as-plot movie, and if that’s not your style, it’s going to feel like a very long journey indeed.” But I didn’t like it. “It seemed worth it.”

Subject #6 has a nice visual “texture,” Tim Robey said in The Daily Telegraph. But it’s the “rapport between the actors — or anti-rapport, to begin with” — that makes it so enjoyable. Haarla plays Laura with great vulnerability, while Borisov “presents such a vivid portrait of inarticulate male neuroses hiding behind a shell of pathetic misogyny that we even become strangely protective of him”.

The film was mostly shot “within the confines of a real Russian train,” Mark Kermode said in The Observer, and it captures the environment “brilliantly”. As with any broader message, its “central theme of transcending difference and finding common ground across personal, cultural and geographic boundaries seems like balm for the soul in these turbulent times”. Film Criticism: Subject No. 6

Fry Electronics Team

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