Deep Rivers (Glubokie reki) (2018)

Deep Rivers (Glubokie reki) first published by EyeforFilm

Somewhere in the remote Caucasus, a father, his sons Muha and Bes, and Bes’ wife Zaira live apart from the local village – their exile the result of a historical resentment that still bubbles under the surface – in a cottage shored up to stop it being swept away by the river at its side. The brothers too are racing to complete their commercial woodchopping before the thaw of the coming spring sends the river into spate, making transport of the timber impossible. When the father is injured by a falling tree, the brothers, unwilling to employ the hostile and feckless locals, reluctantly accept help from their younger brother, summoned back from the city.

What follows is a study in stasis and flux, as Muha and Bes – bear-like, pugnacious, immovable – impose their bullying brand of masculinity on their younger brother, while he immediately wishes to flee once more to the less desperate environment of the metropolis. As it endlessly repeats its rituals of errant machismo, this clan is caught as much in its own entrenched dysfunction as in the cycle of the seasons, and seems doomed to a bleak future, whether from rising waters, vindictive, violent neighbours, or a pointed lack of any progeny (Bes’ only son died as a child). Working under the aegis of Alexandr Sokurov (Father and Son, The Sun, Alexandra), first-time writer/director Vladimir Bitokov offers a domestic saga which, while full of incident, is necessarily more a portrait than a narrative, as it follows a family with nowhere to go.

© Anton Bitel