Harmony Lessons (image 1)

Stark and surreal, strange and beautiful; it’s entirely riveting.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Screened as part of NZIFF 2013

Harmony Lessons 2013

Uroki garmonii

Directed by Emir Baigazin

The violence and brutality of a Kazakh high school explored in this daunting first feature penetrate far beyond the classroom. “Stark and surreal, strange and beautiful; it’s entirely riveting.” — Hollywood Reporter

France / Germany / Kazakhstan In Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles
115 minutes DCP

Director, Screenplay, Editor

Producer

Anna Katchko

Photography

Aziz Zhambakiyev

Production designer

Yuliya Levitskaya

Costume designer

Ulan Nugumanov

Sound

Markus Krohn
,
Sergey Lobanov

With

Timur Aidarbekov (Aslan)
,
Aslan Anarbayev (Bolat)
,
Mukhtar Andassov (Mirsayin)
,
Anelya Adilbekova (Akzhan)
,
Beibitzhan Muslimov (chief inspector)
,
Omar Adilov (Madi)
,
Adlet Anarbekov (Takhir)
,
Daulet Anarbekov (Damir)

Festivals

Berlin, Tribeca 2013

Elsewhere

Although set in a rural Kazakhstan high school, the commonplace violence and brutality explored in this austere and commanding first feature penetrates far beyond the classroom. Aslan, a clever 13-year-old student who has developed a mania for cleanliness after a medical examination, bears the brunt of bullying meted out by Bolat, who runs an extortion scheme obliging younger students to fork over protection money. Bolat is in turn ‘run’ by a gang of older students, themselves controlled by an outside gang. Teachers and parents are oblivious to or incapable of stemming the violence, while the police employ torture to get results. This reductive Darwinian view is delivered with mesmerising precision by 29-year-old Kazakh writer-director-editor Emir Baigazin, who has been compared to Tarkovsky for his vibrant spiritualised primitivism and to Bresson for his absolute visual economy. Movie violence is rarely harnessed to such pointed, deeply felt effect.