Documentary “Weathermaker” directed by Stanislav Mucha

WThe hat we see is history. The amazing wooden lighthouse in Khodovarikha burned down, as we learned at the end of Stanislav Mucha’s documentary about the Siberian weather station. And its four heroes will not be found here today either: Vladimir, the former head of the meteorological team, bought another abandoned station and moved there, the spouses Sasha and Alexander completely abandoned the meteorological profession, and the neighbor Al-Wasili died, two years ago, when Corona spread, and he was The old man, who was born in Khodovarisha, was one of the first to protect himself with the Russian Sputnik vaccine. A few days later he died.

What we see is contemporary history. Immediately after Stalin came to power, he had 22 such observation posts built in the far north of the Soviet Union on the Arctic coast; Khodovaricha is the northernmost of this peninsula, in the Barents Sea. Three people are stationed there, and one probably cannot speak of the most prominent functions.

When Stanislav Mucha first heard about the existence of this place in 2016, when he was filming his documentary “Kolyma – Road of Bones” in Siberia about today’s conception of the GULag system, the same man has been running the weather station for almost twenty years. But when Mucha was first allowed to travel to the Military Exclusion Zone in the fall of 2018 with his cameraman, Markus Winterbauer and translator, that director had been instructed in psychiatry himself and an entirely new crew consisting of Vladimir, Sasha and Alexander. There for two months there. They didn’t know what the movie crew would do for them for two and a half weeks. It doesn’t matter that he’ll be back for a month the following winter and summer. And you can see it on their faces.

Since the start of the weather station, the supply ship comes in once a year and delivers barrels filled.  An empty one was never taken again.  Sasha and Alexander line up the leftovers.

Since the start of the weather station, the supply ship comes in once a year and delivers barrels filled. An empty one was never taken again. Sasha and Alexander line up the leftovers.

Photo: W-film/Cinnabar

What we see is a horror story. From unbearable tightness and monotony, but it never turns into high notes in front of the camera. It is a border crossing. When Alexander had to go to the nearest city for a dental treatment between the film’s winter and summer visits (the return trip took two weeks), Vladimir approached Sasha, who was staying with him. Mucha does not say how far they went, but once they say that Sasha was dragged through the station; So you can tolerate rape. After Alexander returns, he robs the creeping leader, but when Mucha is there for the last time, Vladimir arrives again: with the supply ship that passes once a year. In these final minutes of the movie, the air rises even though nothing happens. This is what creates horror.

“Be glad that the film does not smell”

What we see is a “weather maker”. This address is figurative and at the same time concrete, because the measurement data collected every three hours by the crew in Khodovaricha is used to forecast the weather. Above all, however, the three meteorologists are stuck in a permanent personal decline, and are forced to make the weather bad. How else could he be in a place like this? “Be glad the film doesn’t smell,” Mucha said at the premiere of his film in Frankfurt.

Stanislaw Mucha, born in Poland in 1970 and educated in Berlin Babelsberg, has been our cinematographer in the Far East of Europe since Absolute Warhola, a documentary about Andy Warhol’s Slovak village since 2001: for the regions, one might say, where Volker Koepp no ​​longer wants to drive. Unlike Koepp’s work, Mucha’s films do not carry anything sad about her, but rather cast a subversive look at the post-Soviet situation. “Weathermaker” is no exception, because the scattered comments, as Mucha himself always speaks, are almost maliciously laconic. And the tundra doesn’t impress either.

For a long time one wonders what the film wants to document. Climate change was touched upon once, the Russian war against Ukraine began only after the cut was completed, and we know nothing about the professional activities of the three meteorologists. But as the personal drama unfolds, “Weathermaker” becomes another moody portrait from the fringes of our civilization. He’s shivering – not because of the cold.

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