Timelier than perhaps intended, Kirill Serebrennikov’s hazy fever dream set in a flu-stricken, semi-dystopian post-Soviet Russia is a confronting, elusive vision of life in an eternally wintry hellscape.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
Two years ago, Leto (NZIFF 2018) director Kirill Serebrennikov was released from house arrest, the result of embezzlement charges widely believed to have been phonily orchestrated by the Russian government. Now free (to a degree, Serebrennikov is still prohibited from leaving Russia), the filmmaker returns swinging with Petrov’s Flu, a visionary, nightmarish nocturnal odyssey through an urban Russian cityscape seemingly on the brink of collapse.
Comic book artist Petrov is tossed from one chaotic set piece to another – a night bus jam-packed with grotesqueries; a hearse carrying a corpse that may not be entirely dead; an alien abduction; encounters with his ex-wife (who doubles as an avenging superhero mowing down abusive men in the area) – all while grappling with a debilitating flu that spreads its tendrils across the cast of characters as the film progresses (a chilling parallel to the world we find ourselves in now). Simmering beneath it all is a devastatingly sharp critique of a country in the grip of an unfeeling and uncaring state.
Petrov’s Flu is a fever dream that is hard to shake, even when you surface, sweating and gasping. — Tom Augustine
“This is a work driven by swollen, all-encompassing, sometimes hilarious fury at a general place and way of living, one its director is currently legally forbidden from leaving. Through its heady stew of impulses and influences, however, Petrov’s Flu is cinema to the breathless last, riding the camera like a bucking horse as single shots carry us between locations, eras and states of mind – the thrilling, messy work of a man released.” — Guy Lodge, Variety