Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
On a desolate Russian plain in the near future, an unfinished skyscraper lurks like a ghost in the mist. The developer has died, the architect has killed himself, and a disparate collection of characters – immigrant workers, heirs, academics, gangsters, drug addicts – have to deal with the fallout. Alexey German Jr’s brilliantly novelistic film hops discreetly backwards and forwards in time (as does, on one memorable occasion, one of its characters), unfolding as a series of short stories with their own casts of characters. These are finally brought together in the final two chapters to provide a rich, complex, hesitant conclusion. Along the way there’s a marvellously throwaway use of science-fiction tropes – the future is never as exciting as we expect it will be – and subtle exploration of the theme of human connectivity. The film methodically documents the many ways that the ties that bind us can be shattered in an instant, but in every chapter we’re made aware of characters and gestures that draw away from social entropy.
German’s father’s final film, the psychedelically grotesque Hard to Be a God, was one of the talking points of last year’s NZIFF, and now is your chance to discover the much more classical virtues of German Jr, a rare director who still makes art films on a grand scale, in the tradition of Tarkovsky, Angelopoulos or Kurosawa. The world of Under Electric Clouds is a cavalcade of wastelands populated with surreally unlikely objects, explored in long, elegant tracking shots, the characters weaving through them navigating their individual crises. — AL