DVD Movie Review: Garpastum (2005)

Another country

Truly, a film in which not much happens, but a great deal occurs – the director of Posledniy poezd (The Last Train) (2003), Aleksei German Jr takes us into the heart of rural life in 1914 St. Petersburg, where teen brothers Andrey (Yevgeny Pronin) and Nikolai (Danila Kozlovsky) love football. Garpatsum is its Latin name, and they play on the streets, normally, but then the boys hit on an original plan to build a proper stadium. They start playing with anyone they can rope into a game for money, but then the horrors of World War I and the October Revolution overtake them…

In the beautiful bichrome opening scenes, the murder of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo (which triggered the war) is referred to by manual labourers in the harbour, before an almost unnoticeable transition to muted colour photography and the world of Nikolai and Andrey, who live with their aunt and uncle in St Petersburg.

German Jr (son of the Russian director of the same name) worked on the screenplay with Alexander Vaynshteyn and Oleg Antonov, and together they have created a world that is intimately connected to late 19th century and early 20th century literature, especially German examples such as Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund).

As in those novels, Garpastum’s real purpose is not to tell a story or even portray a character, but to paint a vivid picture of young men’s relation to themselves and each other. What happens in the world beyond these bonds is only interpreted through their relationships, and as such Garpastum is not so much a historical epic as an intimate study of two brothers set in a beautiful and not-often depicted time and place: St Petersburg during and after World War I.

118 mins. In Russian, English and Serbo-Croatian.

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