KRAI

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by Aleksey Lapin

grade: 8

Krai is an intimate and personal film that immediately makes us feel part of a world that is initially unknown to us. The director has opted for the most essential approach possible. The reality he depicts needs no further frills and is wonderful just as it is. Metacinema and documentary cinema come together to create something tender, ironic, but also incredibly moving.

Fiction. Reality. Cinema.

“Originally, cinema was about life, now it only serves to feed a certain business”. So said Russian-born but Viennese adopted director Aleksey Lapin, during a chat with his cousin. But how wonderful would it be to make a film in which one attempts to return to the true essence of the seventh art itself? This, then, is precisely what Lapin wanted to do with his Krai, which had its world premiere at the Viennale 2021.

“Krai” means in Russian “margin”, “border”. Something in between. And so, in the same way, this important work by Aleksey Lapin can also be considered as a work somewhere between reality and fiction, a never-completed work, but one whose working process constitutes a film in its own right. Having arrived in the Russian village of Jutanovka, the young director therefore began a real casting, in order to make – thanks also to the contribution of his family – a sort of “historical film”, a film that would keep alive the memory of traditions and times gone by, that – just as was done in the first decades of the 20th century – would tell the story of people, of life.

During a small village party, the start of shooting is announced to the people. Numerous people really want to take part in the feature film. But in the end, after a series of castings, a few short interviews, moments from everyday life and long chats between friends, the film already exists. And we, at last, can watch and feel it in all its power.

An elegant black and white stands for a precious meeting point between past and present. The past is still alive and pulsating on the screen. The present is what the director and his crew are daily experiencing, while, from time to time, they think about the future. Lapin’s camera films every precious moment. While due to a mysterious gas some cars can no longer start, the director’s nephews happily embrace their mother after the latter has put a new wallpaper in their room. And again: while a middle-aged man says he is very interested in taking part in a “historical film”, even mentioning his past experiences as an actor, Aleksey Lapin’s grandmother nostalgically remembers her past time and her job as a teacher.

Krai is an intimate and personal film that immediately makes us feel part of a world that is initially unknown to us. The director, for his part, has opted for the most essential approach possible. The reality he depicts needs no further frills and is wonderful just as it is. Metacinema and documentary cinema thus come together to create something tender, ironic, but also incredibly moving. Images of a past time that in the present is more alive than ever. Memories that will never vanish and that magically become cinema. And the longed-for return to the cinema of the past has finally come true. Aleksey Lapin has given us with his Krai a real gem. The seventh art finally tells life. A life that is not always easy, but which we cannot help but madly love.

Original title: Krai
Directed by: Aleksey Lapin
Country/year: Austria / 2021
Running time: 123’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Aleksey Lapin
Cinematography: Adrian Campean
Produced by: Horse & Fruits

Info: the page of Krai on iMDb; the page of Krai on the website of the Viennale; the page of Krai on the website of Horse & Fruits