Film - Under Electric Clouds

Under Electric Clouds

Steve Taylor-Bryant has never seen a Russian film before so, in his odyssey to educate himself better in foreign film-making, he watched Under Electric Clouds, part of the Dare category at the BFI London Film Festival...

I love film festival season. At film festivals you get the odd gem of a film that makes it to full release, think of Beat Beneath My Feet. You also get the odd film that you know will go on to critical acclaim, that contains the Hollywood elite and that sets up as a launch pad for a directors career, think of Birdman. Then you get what I call Festival Films around the office. These are the type of films that you will only ever see at a film festival and Under Electric Clouds is one of these titles. You won’t seek this film out on DVD, if it gets a DVD release, and you probably won’t get it on your television, even with 900 channels. This however doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t deserve recognition.

Under Electric Clouds is a tough watch. Not a bad tough watch, it’s just not the usual type of film that I normally sit through and therefore my concentration levels were pushed to the maximum but, once the film synced with my psyche and became easier to watch, what director Alexei German Jr has produced is nothing short of beautiful, possibly epic. Under Electric Clouds had no real linear style to it, more a jigsaw of pieces that had to be put in the right places before you could appreciate the whole. The building, an abandoned skyscraper that was never quite finished, sits in the background as seven sets of characters have stories which develop separately and yet are linked. These character plays work as standalone tales and there is quite the pool of people to watch, a disgraced Oligarch’s heirs who are brother and sister, a non-Russian speaking construction worker, a real estate lawyer, a museum guide whose job is threatened, a young kidnapped girl, and an architect and all their differing lives. And yet they all have the one link – The Building.

Whilst some of the stories don’t seem to make any sense, the link is quite clever and German touches on many subjects as his vision plays out. The conflict between Russia’s past and Russia’s future, corruption, crime, drug addiction, pop culture and politics all get a look in and are written in such a way that the information seems to seep into your mind as the characters’ lives move on rather than being a blatant political statement or explanation and I liked that an awful lot.

Under Electric Clouds tries to do something different, maybe even innovative, and succeeds in the main. I did find it difficult to get into at the beginning, not that I blame German for that, but had I grasped what was happening earlier I think my enjoyment would have been flawless. If you want something that tests you as you watch, if you something that is beautifully filmed, if you want something that is almost anti-Hollywood in every way with its writing and structural style then Under Electric Clouds should be on your list.

Image - BFI.