With the frankly gob-smacking backstory of the DAU project that produced DAU. Natasha, it might have been thought that the group’s Berlinale competition entry would reflect the scope and ambition of the creative process that birthed it. Displeasingly, the film – though engaging enough – never rises above being ample. DAU. Natasha is in fact more than a little dour, Natasha.
The titular heroine (Natalia Berezhnaya) seems to spend her days having long-winded conversations with Olga (Olga Shkabarnya) – conversations that are heavily lubricated with alcohol. The drab Soviet canteen in which they work allows ample time for these exchanges, and serves as an insufficiently-intriguing primary setting for the film. Natasha visits a party, ends up having (seemingly unsimulated) sex with a visiting French scientist, the illegality of which is thrown back in her face when she is interrogated by KGB agents. Although it’s hoped that these events would allow the story to pick up some momentum (even allowing for the piece’s idiosyncratic interpretation of cinematic form), these hopes fail to materialise.
The DAU project might have taken its cue from The Truman Show, with the collective constructing a vast (13,000 square metres) recreation of a Soviet-era institute, populating it with amateur actors, and allowing them to improvise as they saw fit. As the first narrative feature film to emerge from the project (which actually began back in 2009), the level of intrigue attached to DAU. Natasha was high. It would have been besides the point to sharpen the improvisational, free-wheeling brass tacks reality of the overall project simply in order to create something coherent. But for those who then spend two and a half hours watching it, it would have been nice if form and function were more evident.
DAU. Natasha is by no means a catastrophe, and it recalls the unfettered approach of Lars Von Trier, but with less compelling results. To watch the film with no idea of its origins would be to partake in an adequate experience that’s a little rough around the edges. Knowing the project’s colossal aspirations, however, means that the end result can’t help but underwhelm.
DAU. Natasha does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip for DAU. Natasha here: