Under Electric Clouds
Transporting viewers to a melancholy snowscape this autumn is Alexei German’s Under Electric Clouds. A Russian language film, it imagines a 2017 in which a great war is imminent. Taking inspiration from past literature, the film focuses on characters that would otherwise be considered “out of place”. Thought-provoking and mysterious, while a little inaccessible at times, it is a delight for the eyes – with absolutely masterful cinematography.
Splitting the film into chapters that blur into one another, German’s film lacks clarity in many respects, perhaps intentionally. Characters with unexplained pasts and situations are featured for brief moments, allowing the audience to see them only at a time of crisis or transition. Some interact with the dead, many unexpectedly interact with each other and all of them mask or allude to a trauma they have endured that continues to plague their thoughts and influence their behaviour. Symbolism is often employed, as is the case with the theme of blood and commonplace nosebleeds, and with frequent references to Russian history and culture, it is a film with plenty to offer for those particularly knowledgeable on the subject, but full of potential confusion or frustration for those without it.
Daringly, the apparent pointlessness of globalisation is a recurring theme, with many characters having extended knowledge of the world outside, but feeling no real benefit to themselves or their war-facing country as a result of it. One character is a museum guide who can speak many different languages but is ultimately dissatisfied with his life and has no real interest in the tourists he works with – it hints at an interesting, and perhaps even controversial, point of view on our own times.
Aside from its thought-provoking themes, it features excellent acting and breath-taking cinematography: almost every frame could be a stand-alone photograph. The film certainly utilises its snowy filming locations to get some beautiful shots of sunset and dusk, which cast a powerful yet sleepy haze over the dramatic and even violent action that takes place. It is an artistic, existential look at an imagined near future, and is every bit as beautiful as it is distressing.
Under Electric Clouds does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Under Electric Clouds here: