Under Electric Clouds
Set in the near future of 2017, Under Electric Clouds plays out as a complex mosaic divided into seven chapters, each centred around its own protagonist, all of whom are in some way affected by the now-abandoned construction of a skyscraper.
A Kyrgyz construction worker finds himself adrift and jobless, unable to communicate but persistent in lugging around his boom box. A wealthy entrepreneur’s two grown children return to Russia to attend his funeral and resolve the fate of his last pet project, the aforementioned skyscraper. Nikolay, a costumed museum guide and frustrated intellect, ponders whether to stay faithful to his employers, whose museum faces imminent closure. A real estate lawyer is experiencing dreams of a hyper-real fictional city of the past. A refugee whose own family has been lost to war attempts to come to the rescue of an abducted girl. Lastly, the architect of the emblematic skyscraper ponders the meaning of his own life’s work on the eve of his 40th birthday.
It sounds like a lot to digest, but with a running time of two-and-a-half hours, each story has enough space to play out. In the background of each looms something larger: a war is imminent. The environment is also a force here, seemingly taking back the land with all its human fodder. The future according to German Jr’s vision is a fractured one, and it looks like it is our own doing.
The protagonists are mostly of the intelligentsia; the underlying theme of unfulfilled dreams appears to be what links them. Their conversations and musings about the state of the world at large sit somewhere between the downplayed and downbeat. They are as loquacious as a Linklater encounter, but the necessary expanse to allow a more in-depth elaboration never really comes; it’s mostly the empty verbiage that prevails. Some exchanges between bystanders provide appreciated moments of light comic relief, and certain relationships enjoy suggestive and enjoyable chemistry: museum tour guide Nikolay and his work colleague and lover stand out here as one example.
The film’s greatest strengths lie in its cinematography, by Evgeniy Privin and Sergey Mikhalchuk. Filmed on location in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, the camera follows our protagonists around uninhabited and fallowed landscapes. A wasteland beach features heavily, as though at the edge of the world where sculptures jut out of the sea, half-built and forgotten; you can almost feel the sea spray. The locals still have parties, discuss internet gossip and invite each other to birthday parties amidst rosy-hazed sunsets and the violet hues of the night. If this is what the end of the world looks like, then at least there may be some consolation.Visually fantastic, Under Electric Clouds is a mighty attempt that unfortunately fails to fill out its own atmospheric veneer to reach a meaningful conclusion.
Under Electric Clouds does not yet have a UK release date.
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