Lost in Karastan
If you’re a film director at a loose end you would do well not to follow in the footsteps of the protaganist of this highly amusing and original comedy set in the fictional former Soviet territory known as Karastan.
Affably played by Matthew Macfadyen (a mild-mannered cross between Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman), forlorn director Emil Forester is lured out of his writer’s block in London to a film festival in a faraway banana republic in the Caucasus (where even Borat would feel homesick). He soon finds himself the reluctant servant of the president’s department of propaganda, coerced into shooting the life story of the nation’s national hero (and namesake of the local vodka).
An endearing portrayal of a land where the local population are the real stars, this work wonderfully captures the bleakness and hardship of a mountain people who, although portrayed as fictional, are apparently not far removed from the film in reality. Often very attractively shot in the mountains of Georgia on digital RED, partially in monochrome, and featuring some impressive wide-angle shots, Lost in Karastan also reveals a real country still bearing the scars of the 2008 conflict with Russia. It is the comedy in this production, however, that pays off and the numerous odd surprises from beginning to end provide an entertaining journey into the heart of a land full of absurdities.
Despite one or two scenes where one feels the budget might have been more accommodating (the presidential quarters for example appear unconvincingly threadbare), and some moments where another take may have been desirable, this is a movie that does not fail to entertain. Much time has been spent on the casting, and this veritable offering from writer and director Ben Hopkins (The Nine Lives of Thomas Katz) is dappled with believable characters who seem to have been born into their roles, with the exception of the president himself (Richard van Weyden) who is sadly, on occasion, as unconvincing as his residence.
The film perhaps has the appearance of a production lacking in resources and expertise, like the tumble-down world in which it is set, which lends the film its overall charm. Combined with some alluring cinematography, Lost in Karastan uses its imperfections to great comedic effect. This is a picture that ought not be missed.
Lost in Karastan is released in selected cinemas on 22nd January 2016.
Watch the trailer for “Lost in Karastan” here: