In the South of the Kherson region, near the border with the occupied Crimea, among the steppe, the car with OSCE observers gets stuck. The fixer driver named Lucas (Serhii Stepanskyi) is sent for help. When he returns on a passing Kamaz, he discovers that the car is missing along with the passengers. Then he finds shelter at home of the local weirdo Vova, gets into trouble, loses
money, documents and in some sense, himself. But, in the end, he gets no less.
Roman Bondarchuk, the 37-year-old man from Kherson who has been living in Kyiv for a long time, started to shoot his feature full-length debut Volcano due to the fatal combination of circumstances. First, he was going to make a documentary portrait of the former director of the fish farm of the district center Beryslav, the artistic chatterer Volodymyr Arsiienko, but the latter died under mysterious circumstances at the end of 2016. Based on the collected material, a feature script was written.
Vova (Viktor Zhdanov) in Volcano is also the former director of the fish farm. He is divorced, lives in a house on the shore of the Kakhovka Reservoir with his mother (Tamara Sotsenko) and daughter (Khrystyna Deilik), can hold his breath underwater for at least 10 minutes, is in search of true profit: he sells the ‘molecular glue’, digs up old pieces of iron with the mine detector. He perceives the restrained and concentrated Lucas as a chance to get out of the boring steppe.
From his side, Bondarchuk does not hide his fascination with the native landscapes, shows a ship sailing to the meditative singing in the long overture, takes the characters into the steppe on any occasion, stops the camera on the sun-scorched ruins and grass, puts the sea in the frame again and again, which is actually not the sea at all, but a giant reservoir that has confused this area once and forever.
Locations tell their own story, and they have a variety of quirks – ranging from a six-meter sculpture of watermelon and ending with the actual volcano/mound, which, incidentally, appears for only a few seconds without any consequences for the plot.
“It is the Wild Field,” Vova specifies. “If you adapt, you live. If you don’t adapt, you don’t live.”
Wild Field, Wild West is a frontier, that is, the border between civilization and the unbridled tribes. The frontier, in its turn, is the basic plot of the Western and related genres. Bondarchuk rethinks this technique in the right direction for himself. As a rule, the conflict of the frontier is triggered by the appearance of an alien, which exacerbates existing conflicts or provokes new ones. And Lucas is a double alien: both geographically, and by class. He is always perceived as a German and is even once addressed to in German. A German in the East Slavic tradition is both literary and illusory figure. And it is not the last mystical turn here.
Violence (constant fighting, as it should be on the frontier) and metaphysics are generated by the landscape as well as by the characters that act in it. The disappearances here are both visual and dramatic. OSCE observers disappear. Documents and money, phone and transport communication with the world, fish farm, and its structures disappear, whole villages flooded by the reservoir disappear, a lot of local people live without documents, that is, they do not exist legally.
Naturally, the emptiness is filled with mirages: a wandering buoy – it appears or disappears whenever it wants, the choir from Milove village – 9 women in traditional white-green costumes sing mournful songs at night near the bus station and in the day in the bare steppe; finally, Milove itself in the final scene – one-story houses at the bottom of the fake sea.
The landscape almost absorbs Lucas twice. After quarreling with Vova, he goes to work in the field for bandits and after a cruel beating, he appears in a zindan pit in the middle of the apocalyptic plain with the dried sunflowers. He is rescued by Vova from the three-day hell – from this moment on, Lucas becomes accepted. And in the final episode, it is a wandering buoy that sends the protagonist underwater: it knocks him off the boat, on which he and Vova went for another treasure hunt. Lucas sinks to the bottom. In the sunlit depths, white huts are seen – the village, the choir of which finds no rest. As always, Vova rushes to his rescue. Lucas comes back to life already on the boat. And meets himself, the doppelganger, that selects the net – a usual local fisherman.
To survive in the volcano. To conquer the Wild Field. To become invincible – like a ghost.
Dmytro Desyateryk, “Day” – specially for opinionua.com