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November 13, 2013

Starz Denver Film Festival 2013 - House with a Turret

House with a Turret Poster.jpg

Dom s bashenkoy
Eva Neymann - 2012
Eye On Films

The film is filmed in black and white, Russian, takes place in the Soviet Union of World War II, and is rather austere. The source novel was written by Fridrikh Gorenshtein, whom among other credits, had a hand in Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris. Even though Ukrainian filmmaker Eva Neymann made her second feature last year, if one just walked in cold, one could easily mistake this for a film made forty or fifty years ago.

Taken from Gorenshtein's autobiographical writings, the main character is an unnamed boy. First seen traveling by train in a freight car, his mother is extremely ill. The two stop off in a small town, where the mother is eventually taken to the town's only hospital. The boy wanders between the hospital, and the town, where he sends a telegraph to his grandfather. Left on his own, his encounters with adults is either that of indifference or of assistance given grudgingly. When the boy's mother dies, the only thought the boy has is to keep moving.

The house in question is in the center of the town. The turret is fractured. The house seems to be the home of a man and a young girl who appear to be faring better than most. The young girl shows the boy her tin whistle. There is a scene where the girl, outside in the snow, pretends to be pouring tea and serving a meal of potatoes. Even during wartime, when food staples are scarce, there is something almost eternal and universal about little girls pretending to serve tea.

The boy tries to remain stoic. He sums up the death of his mother with the words. "That's it". It is only on the train ride to his grandfather that he attempts to come to terms with a grief that he can not articulate.

While only seen onscreen for a short amount of time, House with a Turret features the last performance by Yekaterina Golubeva.

There seems to have been a small resurgence in films shot in black and white. And House with a Turret may seem to some even more archaic using 35 mm film. The same material that Neymann's professed inspirations Tarkovsky, Dreyer and Kurosawa used. There are dark hallways that lead into unknown places, snow flurries, crumbling buildings. Most of the film was shot in Odessa. The music used is all diegetic, although there is one scene in the hospital that might be the exception. I wish there was a complete list to the music used - which includes Erik Satie and contemporary composer Jurgen Grozinger. I am admittedly a sucker for contemporary movies that look like something from a classic era of filmmaking, but this is definitely one film to seek out.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 13, 2013 07:54 AM