Parade of the Planets

parad planetDirector: Vadim Abdrashitov. Writer: Aleksandr Mindadze. Starring: Oleg Borisov, Sergey Shakurov, Sergey Nikonenko, Liliya Gritsenko, Aleksandr Pashutin, Pyotr Zaychenko. USSR, 1984. IMDb: 7.2. My rating: 3.5/4. A surreal metaphor about the end of an era, generations and human fate.

– I was a good student. And all good students dreamt to be astronomers. Discover new stars. But all stars have already been discovered…
(conversation between main characters)

– I was a butcher, I was…
– And now?
– And now I’m a spirit.
(conversation between main characters)

“Parade of the Planets” gives you an illusory airy, gauzy feeling. It’s woven of a light and some invisible matter – hard to catch, yet impossible not to feel. It’s late in the afternoon, the sky is still crystal, but you feel the air is thicker, there’s a sense of doom all around… the thunder is coming. The storm that will wash away everything. We won’t even see it, probably, but the feeling itself is overwhelming.

The film, a continuous surreal metaphor shot in the everyday life style, may seem a little hard to interpret without knowing the context, but everyone can appreciate the incredible sense of weightlessness and doom it manages to combine.

After the first view, I wasn’t impressed a lot, but something ticked inside of my head, especially because of a powerful final scene, when main characters visit the old people’s house. The residents literally devour them with eyes, crawling behing almost like zombies… soon the protagonists realize that they see the old versions of themselves. It looked scary. Scary in a metaphysical way. I decided to give it a second view the next day – thing I do very rarely that quick – and now the message was clearer. It’s incredible how the “Parade of the Planets” was allowed to be done at that time (1984!), when the censorship in USSR was still strong and didn’t allow things that came later, like the venturesome and riskier “City Zero”. Probably it was mainly due to its deep metaphorical shape – there aren’t many weightless films like that.

The production. Ironically the director Abdrashitov doesn’t consider his movies arthouse, saying that they’ve always been transparent and clear. He worked fruitfully for many years with screenwriter A. Mindadze – together they made about 6 movies, one movie every 2 years, despite all the censorship – almost all their movies were labeled as antipatriotic and spent some time before release as it wasn’t easy to get the approval. With one exception, Abdrashitov never agreed to cut the “wrong” scenes from his movies. “Parade of the Planets” spent almost 1 year on a shelf, but finally was released untouched and gained some good recognition abroad too.

The plot. Six men, all in their 40-s, are called on the army training. It’s the last one for them, given the age. They are all reppresentatives of different social groups – a butcher, a driver, a scientist… When the training is finished, they still have two free days left, so they decide to spend them together, visiting the city of women, the city of old people, their youth memories, knowing deep inside that they’d probably never meet again.

The film was out in 1984 and the reaction was mostly a respectful perplexity… the metaphor was too hard to decipher. It’s too intelligent to be understood by the masses, altghough with time the film gained a lot of following. It’s a subtle, paper-thin surreal portrait of an epoch, of a generation. Six men saw all their life at a glance – youth, friendship and those around them.

When parade of the planets really happens (just few times in last decades), it doesn’t have a deep astronomical meaning, rather an astrological one. Six men from different social groups are accidentally torn apart from their routines for several days, joining each other in their travel. Will it influence them? Or will they be torn apart again, coming back to everyday life, like the planets, that stood in one line, but now are so far away from each other?

Worth watching? “Parade of the Planets” is a mysterious movie in many ways. I cannot unanimously reccomend it to everyone as this apparently airy tale is deceitfully hard to decipher. But if you are able to delve into it, there is a lot to be found. It’s a weightless and surreal story, where everything is vague, like the gauze above the river in the early morning in a sultry daydream. Everything passes by in front of the men we are following, and just for a moment they’re here, together.

3.5/4

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