Encountering bears, bell-ringers and more among the desolate Russian countryside, Stereotactic have created a stunning visual diary of the journey from Saint Petersburg to Moscow by train, following the same route as Russian writer Radishchev did around 200 years ago. A concept by independent journalist and director Andrey Loshak, with cinematography and editing from Alex Khudokon, the team is currently developing a feature-length version filled with interviews and narratives along the way. Produced for Russia's last independent online TV channel TV Rain, we catch up with Khudokon below.
What fascinates you most about what lies between St Petersburg and Moscow?
Alex Khudokon: Nothing really. It's so depressing that you just want to drive past as fast as possible, but here we had to stop in every town along the way. It's not really interesting for most of the people, they don't want to look at it nor do they want to know about it – it's like a wound they don't want to recognise.
How did the 200 year journey of Alexander Radishchev affect you during the trip? What do you think will be different in another 200 years time?
Alex Khudokon: I feel like he had exactly the same weather during his trip, which was a grey cold landscape and muddy snowy shit anywhere you go. He'd been on the road for two weeks, looking outside his carriage and I kind of treated this whole project the same way. A little melancholic and without light at the end of the tunnel.
From what I've seen – nothing is going to change. Those places are slowly vanishing and fading with time as people die. They will exist as just abandoned houses and crooked fences without people there.
What moment during your trip stayed with you the most?
Alex Khudokon: There were all kinds of different people from the poorest to the richest and it's really hard to say. I was not really with ‘them’ and wasn't attached to any of them. I couldn't really feel for them either, so I feel like every character just served a little purpose of his own. At the end, they together create a more objective portrait of the place.
Did you meet many young people your age along the way?
Alex Khudokon: Not too many, but the ones I met were as chilled as we were. One time we got chased down by a tanned black lexus with a bald guy who wouldn't say a word when he came out of the car so he just kept staring at us. Apparently he wasn't happy with me filming him while driving by. I really felt like he is going to shoot us in the middle of that dark field but he just wanted to know what’s up. A few weeks after he called me a few times as I had to give him my phone number, but he was just a happy bro over the phone, wanting to see the film. He also said he works at the cemetery near Moscow, so we should hang out.
What part of Russia do you love most?
Alex Khudokon: I really like all of it, maybe because it's something that will always stay unexplored for me.
What can we expect from the feature-length version?
Alex Khudokon: I've already edited a three hour film that was made into six episodes. I feel like the feature will be a shorter version of that. I'm hoping it will still be an ambient heavy documentary with voices of the environment. The whole thing should feel like a portrait of the road. Also, music in the feature film is by John Kingdom. For the eight min cut they used the music of Russian Athletics.