Zhenia (Alex Utgoff) is a Ukrainian massage therapist in Poland, treading a seemingly never-ending path between identical mansions in a gated neighbourhood, transforming the lives of the inhabitants through his touch and, perhaps, special powers. He doesn’t speak much and when his clients succumb to sleep as he ‘draws their misery from them’, he wanders their homes like a curious tourist. He lives in a bare apartment in a less affluent part of the city and dreams of his childhood in Pripyat, the town right next to the Chernobyl reactor. When it burned when he was a child, he thought the radioactive ash was snow.
His clients are a strange lot, emblematic perhaps of the isolation of the middle-class and post-Communist Poland. They are suspicious of each other, there is little warmth even within families and they care more for their trees and dogs and ideas than each other. A little bit of magic realism weaves through the story, although we are never quite sure what is real and what is imagination. The cinematography and mise-en scène is gorgeous, moving from bleached suburbia through the dark forests of people’s trauma to the nostalgia of sunlight through falling ash.
The ending raises more questions than it answers although there is real beauty in the final frames. I was left not really know what it was all about or whether there was a point but quite enjoying the journey nonetheless.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.