Okay, a confession up front; I micro-napped throughout this film. It’s tempting to think this is why I have no idea of the storyline but I suspect that wide-eyed wakefulness wouldn’t have helped all that much.
Told as a barely-connected series of scenes, Sergey Loznitsa’s Donbass leads us on a troubling and grubby journey through the corruption, fake news and inhuman reality of the Ukraine. In many ways, it is deliberately caricatured and absurd but with a violent, realist feel that makes it feel as heavy as a lead blanket.
There’s no point in explaining the plot. The film starts and, rather devastatingly, ends with extras in a make up van getting ready for a shoot. They are hassled out the door and arrive on a scene just after an explosion to talk to camera crews about what has just happened. There is no explanation of who they are or who it is that is faking the news. From there we go from scene to scene; a suspected enemy sympathiser is being beaten up in the street, a wealthy woman visits a hovel to try and convince her mother to come back home, members of the army are treated like honoured guests at a riotous wedding.
The themes are clear; authority can’t be trusted, no one can be trusted, there is corruption everywhere, there is violence everywhere. The ending is nihilistic and I was left in confused despair. I suspect there is a deeper meaning, or political comment is being made about Russia and the Ukraine. I’m sure I could find out more about if I wanted to. But I can’t bring myself to do it.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.