Starting on January 23, Ukrainian viewers have an opportunity to see Valentyn VASIANOVYCH’s tragicomedy Kredens (The Cupboard) in cinemas. This is his second full-length feature film (the director’s debut took place last year with a movie Zvychaina sprava (Business as Usual). The film premiered last year in July at the Odesa International Film Festival, where it got an award from the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) as the “Best Ukrainian full-length film.”
The protagonist, a humble intellectual Orest, a cellist at the Lviv Opera House orchestra who, like every musician, dreams about the career of a touring performer. And finally he gets an opportunity to go to Vienna for training. It seems everything is happening in the best way possible, but according to the plot, a competitor appears and tries to push Orest aside and not let him go on the trip. Besides, raider attacks are carried out on the music school where his son studies, and his mother-in-law wants him to impregnate his wife’s sister. There seem to be too many bolts from the blue at once, and Orest is forced to somehow settle these conflicts. “If you want to bring your house to order, and persuasions and intelligent conversation don’t help anymore, sooner or later you will have to pick up a cudgel,” said Vasianovych outlining the general theme of the film to The Day. This movie, like Vasianovych’s previous film, is made for the mass audience rather than for movie festivals. This sets it apart from the majority of Ukrainian film projects.
The film features Andrii Saminin (Okhotniki za karavanami (Caravan Hunters)), Olha Hryshyna (Firecrosser), Mykhailo Zhonin (Menty. Taemnytsi velykoho mista (The Cops: Big City’s Secrets)), Natalia Vasko (Metelyky (Butterflies)), and others.
Actually, in Lviv kredens means “cupboard.” Viewers will understand why the film’s authors decided to name it in this way while watching it, but the very word “kredens” shows that the special Lviv atmosphere gives the zest to the film, which makes it one of the first “Lviv-flavored” film stories of the contemporary Ukrainian cinematography.
The conflict between Soviet and traditional Galician worldviews is one of the film’s important moments. Let us remind that during the Soviet times, a lot of military servants, party members, and high-ranked officials were moved to Lviv. Their children and grandchildren still do not learn Ukrainian on principle and oppose themselves to the locals in various ways. Orest’s wife is from such a family of the military.
Since Kredens is a chamber story without expensive special effects, the film’s overall budget was only about eight million hryvnias. Half of the money was provided by the Ukrainian State Film Agency, and the rest by private investors. Vasianovych says that the majority of directors shooting full-length feature films in Ukraine work according to such scheme.
“Of course, it is not easy to find even a half of the necessary sum, but if you try hard enough, it is still possible,” the director says. According to Vasianovych, the system of film production that has been working in Ukraine for the past three years is a Polish or French approach slightly adapted to the domestic conditions. The only difference is that in Europe, except from the state institutions, there are a lot of funds that are filled by cinemas and other sources, whereas in Ukraine cinematographers are extremely dependent on the state fund.
The shooting of Kredens took place last year during winter holidays and lasted six to eight weeks. Filmmakers got lucky because it snowed in Lviv at the time, which does not happen often. The film was ready in the summer, but a lot of legal issues were to be settled for it to be released in cinemas, therefore it happened later than it was originally planned. “In general, it is fantastically fast to overcome the distance from the start to release in one year,” Vasianovych says.
According to the previous agreement, the film will be screened in approximately 25 cinemas all over Ukraine with the involvement of 25 to 30 copies. “It is a lot for Ukraine,” says the director. “If we used three times more copies, it wouldn’t have changed anything. There are two thousand people ready to watch my movie in Kyiv. This statistics was calculated by distributors themselves: only about a few thousand people will come to watch a Ukrainian film of decent quality. Why? Because they have money and they are interested in it, you don’t need other factors. Even if there were more cinemas, it would not change a thing. The growth of interest towards Ukrainian cinematography is a long process, which depends on many factors. It would be ridiculous to count on some kind of profit today. Film in Ukraine is a non-commercial affair, and everyone involved understands it from the start.”
Besides Kredens, two documentaries by Ukrainian directors were released in January: Oleksandr Denysenko’s Denysia. Svity Volodymyra Denysenka (Denisia. The Worlds of Volodymyr Denysenko), dedicated to life story of the famous Ukrainian director, and Volodymyr Khmelnytsky’s Chy ye zhyttia na Marsi? (Is There Life on Mars?), which ironically describes everyday life and relations between inhabitants of a village with a telling name Mars in Chernihiv oblast. Also, Russian director Oleg Stepchenko’s 3D thriller Viy, based on Nikolai Gogol’s novel, will be released on January 30. The film was created jointly by Ukraine, Russia, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Great Britain, and the main role was played by British actor Jason Flemyng, famous for his roles in Guy Ritchie’s films Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. The film’s budget is 26 million dollars, and all rights to it on the territory of Ukraine belong to Inter TV channel.