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A Room and a Half

Russian film director Andrey Khrzhanovsky impresses with his cinematic take on Joseph Brodsky's memories of Soviet-era life

Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s A Room And A Half might not fill up Leicester Square when it premieres but there is no doubting its cinematic beauty. Based on Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Brodsky, the film follows his memories growing up in St Petersburg as he returns home after being exiled in America. Its witty observations of Soviet life add a comic layer to an essentially moving story. Interspersions of Brodsky’s own lyrical poetry are mirrored in the inventive use of colour and graceful, flowing scenes. Khrzhanovsky’s playfulness is exhibited in the hugely entertaining and slightly surreal animation – a cat peddling a flying bike past a statue of Lenin and later writing a letter to his mother to request tinned fish (parodying Brodsky’s own requests for rum) stand out particularly.

Dazed Digital: What inspired you to write a film on Josef Brodsky?
Andrey Khrzhanovsky: He is probably the poet closest to my heart. There was something about this life story that is really representative of a specific period of Russian history.

DD: Why has Russia produced such a wealth of literary giants?
Andrey Khrzhanovsky: Its history has ensured there has been a lot to write about. It is a very enigmatic country. Russian poet F. Tjutchev said, “Nobody can understand Russia with only his mind”.

DD: What role does the animation play in the film?  
Andrey Khrzhanovsky: The animation is a way of visually portraying poetry, well, my vision of it anyway.

DD: Why did you use crows to symbolise Brodsky’s parents?
Andrey Khrzhanovsky: I actually borrowed the crow motif from my own life - when my father died a crow appeared outside my window. When my mother died another joined it.

DD: Did you intend a particular political message?
Andrey Khrzhanovsky: Most of all I wanted to send a human message. I wanted to show how politics impacts on lives, not the other way round. This story is about a very specific situation, but I think everyone can connect with the emotions the characters are feeling.

A Room and a Half  is out on Friday 7 May
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