Uchenik (The Disciple)
Kirill Serebrennikov, already well-known in Russia in both the cinema and theatre milieu, presents the only Russian picture at Cannes 2016, Uchenik (The Disciple). A beautifully haunting and serious film where adolescent rebellion spills over into existential questions and becomes a real challenge to the adult world, Uchenik is adapted from German dramatist Marius von Mayenburg’s play Martyr.
Serebrennikov’s debut at the Cannes film festival is the story of young Venia’s sudden obsession with religion, which flares up with anger and a powerful defence of the Bible, cited constantly throughout the film. While around him his peers, in the full swing of puberty and sexual bloom, fail to see the gravity of his new attitude; his behaviour shocks adults, both at home and at school, to a point where they themselves succumb to his questioning.
Threatening accepted values and beliefs, the “disciple”’s mania stirs up multi-layered clashes between generations, mentalities and morals; in an intriguing painting of contemporary Russia, the teenager’s attacks on both the more progressive parts of society and the institution of the Orthodox church raise the curtain on the differences that still exist between coexisting schools of thought.
Filming a world where a cult of the body is unmistakable, nude shapes and tense muscles obsess the eye, in contrasting to the main character’s modest total black. His voice booms throughout the scenes as every Bible verse is carefully referenced on the screen.
A shockwave of frightening faith is delivered by Pyotr Skvortsov’s exceptional perfomance as Venia – who remains quite enigmatic and cryptically inaccessible for a long time despite being the main character. Serebrennikov’s camera choices are admirable, with an evident preference for long takes (with a special shout out to the wonderful opening scene), while strong music choices contribute to this quite unique film.
Uchenik is a sinister and beautifully shot tale about religious fundamentalism and its dangers, and never lets the audience down, surprising and compulsively disturbing to the very end. Not easily forgotten.
Uchenik (The Disciple) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2016 visit here.
Watch an excerpt of Uchenik here: