My Friend Ivan Lapshin

My Friend Ivan Lapshin ★★★★½

My Friend Ivan Lapshin is the third film from Russian director and screenwriter Alexei German, based on his father's stories, acclaimed author Yuri, and set in an impoverished provincial town in Stalinist Russia in the middle of the 1930s. The film interchanges between black and white and colour and recounts the memories of a young boy and his father living within a communal flat with the head of local police Ivan Lapshin (Andrei Boltnev) along with about half a dozen other characters.

It has a loose, episodic structure as Lapshin balances different aspects of his personal life while committing brutal acts on those individuals the state wants rounding up; Eduard Volodarsky's written screenplay skillfully offsetting hope and suffering in equal quantities. It purposefully thwarts straightforward interpretation and arouses a sarcastic yet perceptive authorial tone comparable with some narratives by Chekhov; clenching similar attributes of pathos and humour as the novelist and playwright.

German pays extreme attention to detail as he reproduces and addresses the Stalinist period with both a scarcity of sentimentality and a talented ensemble cast. He also contributes an elegant camera style to the film with long, sophisticated takes that often see the camera gliding through an assortment of landscapes crowding with luring detail; taking full advantage of different shooting styles and film stocks. My Friend Ivan Lapshin looks at the pre-purge Soviet Union through fractured notions of distant recollections and creates a delightful and rewarding experience.

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