Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One of the stranger things about Moloch is that it's actually a pretty relatable story. Yelena Rufanova plays a young woman in a relationship with an insufferable blowhard who also happens to have a great deal of power and influence (Leonid Mozgovoy). As a result, she's the only person who can disagree with him, since he surrounds himself with yes-men who wouldn't dare, no matter what they actually think of some of his ideas. Some of the aforementioned yes men happen to be with him on what can only be described as a very awkward vacation. Nobody really gets along with each other, and there's an uncomfortable veneer of civility surrounding the whole thing which is obliterated whenever certain people get together away from the others they don't necessarily like.

I've been in similar groups, where everyone is barely getting along and can only survive by talking behind backs. I've been in groups where there was a clear ass who nobody liked who everyone was too cautious to actually confront. I've also been on awkward vacations with people who didn't quite get along. I'm sure everyone has been in similar situations, it's just something that happens when people assemble in large groups, some of the pieces just don't fit together without a great deal of artificiality. It's a uniquely human experience.

So, it's interesting that Aleksandr Sokurov, the director, tries to distance people as much as possible from the film itself. It takes place in a very remote castle, surrounded in mist. Rufanova's character is introduced in a ten minute, wordless sequence of her just being bored and dicking around in the castle. The sets are large but vacant, calling attention to how unnatural the entire thing looks. Oh, and everyone in the film is a Nazi.

That's right, that young woman? She's Eva Braun. The insufferable ass? Only the biggest ass in history, Adolf Hitler. It's surreal to have the Hitler being portrayed as basically a really annoying boss, and every time you begin to relate to the characters someone in uniform is spotted on screen and you think "oh right, they're Nazis." While it captures the awkwardness of people who don't quite get along, it also never stops reminding you that these people, in spite of their eminently human qualities, were also generally history's greatest monsters.

It's a very strange piece, in that it does engender a lot of sympathy for Braun, who is depicted as being just one of millions of women who fell in love with a jerk. She's depicted as always a little unhappy, and as a result it creates an ultimately sympathetic character. Yes, a sympathetic character who is also Hitler's girlfriend, it's a strange thought to have, but if she's presented as an exaggerated version of every woman who married a monster, maybe it's not a bad idea.

I can't quite figure out if it's a problem or a strength that such an intrinsically human story also happens to be about Nazis. On one hand, it can yank you out of it, and you do feel bad about being able to relate. Then again, the Nazis were people, even if they were people with thoroughly objectionable ideals. I've said it before, but sometimes we need to be reminded that they were people, just to get across that we should be always on the lookout for people of the same nature, to prevent a similar result.

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