“Weathermaker” documentary by Stanislav Mucha about Russia

sEven for an intuitive decision, most people need very little time. Documentary filmmaker Stanislaw Mucha had five minutes on one day in 2018 to make a relatively far-reaching decision. He was standing in the far north of Russia in front of three people who were on duty at a weather station in the town of Khodovarikha.

He wanted to talk to them to see if they could be good heroes, but the helicopter captain who took him there was already pushing. A polar storm threatened, and the moratorium had to be shortened. Mucha remembers the day he decided to make the film, now called Weathermaker: “We were basically silent for five minutes.”

The heroes are Vladimir, Alexander and Sasha. Alexander and Sasha are a married couple, Vladimir is a veteran, somehow the three have to coexist in a very small space. This is not without tension. Mucha also knew from the start that the place had an effect on the people who work here, because he originally wanted to shoot with another man in the “leading role”. “But he went crazy. When I wanted to meet him for an initial conversation, he just exchanged. He was a human wreck.”

Stanislav Mucha made his way relatively systematically to this frontier of civilization. In 2001 he became acquainted with Absolute Warhola, visiting the region from which Andy Warhol came, in the border triangle between Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine.

The ability to make people talk

In 2014, he released a film about the Black Sea (“Tristia”), which can already be read as a study of post-Soviet sensibilities. “Kolyma – Road of Bones” (2017) was an exploration of regions in Russia’s Far East where Stalinist terror seems to belong roughly to short-term memory – or this much-favored bodily memory, which people have in a variety of ways of speaking. They usually don’t have to say that much.

The passage to Khodovarikha is found in Kolyma. Those who serve here go off on something like “volunteer work camp”. Every day it accumulates a lot of data, which is sent to the remote control center using the radio (“root 15 to root 11”). In fact, there should also be internet, via satellite, but it doesn’t really work, other details that make Khodovaricha seem like a magical place. Outside you get lost in breadth, inside in the suite you huddle together. How to make a movie when there is not enough space even for the characters in front of the camera?

“We’ve reduced the team to the max, three people, an assistant, a photographer and me, we didn’t want to be any more, there shouldn’t be a majority on our side.” A bit of privacy helped, behind a makeshift wall “The photographer and I were snoring at each other,” Mucha says.

When one hears the fates of Sasha, Alexander, and Vladimir, one cannot help but wonder how much they represent Vladimir Putin’s Russia – or perhaps even a bit of a “Soviet man” whose stubborn persistence has astounded many historians. “What we have definitely noticed is how much they are fed up with ideology and the old days even in this place on a daily basis. TV actually only shows war movies or musicals that take place during the war.”

Everything has already been said

Over the years, Mucha learned to understand today’s Russia better, and, looking back, was almost amazed at how clear everything was actually said before he paid attention: “When we were shooting at the Black Sea, it was constantly said if it was Russia that would swallow Ukraine that Khrushchev made a huge mistake when he ceded Crimea to Ukraine. But Ukraine does not even exist, as he has repeatedly assured us. “

Mucha sees “weathermakers” as an example of how difficult it is to talk to each other in Russia. He sees a society marked by silence and secrecy, and tells a story he only alludes to in the film: a man out of envy reveals a solution to the crime novel he’s reading and, out of anger, is stabbed to death.

“We in the so-called West think of Gorbachev as a historical hero. Many people in Russia see it the other way around: the decay begins with Gorbachev.” For Mucha, projects have recently turned out to be somewhat similar to the character of Matryoshka: if you pull one out, it immediately contains another . He’ll now basically be moving north, and he’ll have a final concept for a movie whose story was found lost due to a pilot getting lost in a search.

“But that won’t be possible for long now,” says Mucha, who has had a lot of luck and skill getting accurate shooting passes. Perhaps because almost all of his films are comedies, despite their challenging themes.

With Russia now absent as a location and as a subject, Mucha decided to go east. It also records the alternative to capitalism looming there, and thus will shoot his next film in China. Can you really say what it will be like in the near future? “In China, I’m interested in tea,” he answers evasively. We will again be surprised by the next Matryoshka character in the works of Stanislav Mucha.

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