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Sailing into childhood
on 28 December 2011
Room and a Half is a recall through the techniques of film of an earlier more classical era when civilization and culture had true value.The director Khrzhanovskiy shares with Brodsky a similar historical period being of similar ages,sharing similar friends and being brought up in the famous `room and a half' apartments,celebrated in this film.However they never met.Khrzhanovoskiy is drawn to him as Brodsky did many drawings which the director shows in one of the extras.He is also drawn to his prose essay "A Room and a Half" from the collection "Less than One".
Like Brodsky he was an only child and deeply devoted to his parents.The film is playful in tone as he suggests Joseph Brodsky,the Nobel Laureate, was in his outspokenness about individualism vs.mass conformity.This film is a fiction and takes poetic liberties with the facts of Brodsky's life.Using a perfect blend of different styles-fiction,animation and historical footage-in an absolute mastery of the different formats to create a magical, creative fantasia which is unified.At odds with post-WWII Stalinism and later Kruschev.He spent 2 years in a Soviet prison in the 60's and was eventually exiled from the country and his parents(forever),living in the U.S. from 1972 until his death in 1996.
Walking out of school forever from age 13 his parent's apartment is a creative wonderland in a context of communal living.We see the boy and then the college student.In a hilarious montage of short scenes young Brodsky brings home various girlfriends in the half room,with the ultimate goal of having sex with them,while the parents,a short distance away try to pretend nothing is happening.Stalin's repression of artists and intellectuals(especially Jews) is shown by the image of musical instruments slowly floating above,and leaving,the city of Leningrad,like a Chagall.The soundtrack contains a lot of Bach and his favorite Haydn.
Brodsky's reminiscences of his father and mother are full of heartful nostalgia as they adjust to contracting circumstances.The poet in exile as a university professor in the U.S.is shown phoning home,the umbilical chord of his new life and success.He never returns,so he is shown,in the after-life,sailing to the country of his childhood,traveling through space as well as time to see them once more.Brodsky's poetry is given a few short readings,but the film doesn't get close to Brodsky's importance to world literature as the great poet of freedom,exile and soul lament.If you like the film,go straight to the work.Forget then the life.The real Brodsky is in the poems.The power and lyricism.I loved the film for reminding us of Brodsky,the jazz,the cigarettes,the cats.