Many years ago, writer Valentin Shubin (Alexei Guskov) wrote a series of children's books about the elephant Bear and became famous throughout the world. In those years, the source of his inspiration was his daughter, who has now grown up and does not want to hear about her father. There are reasons for this: Shubin, to put it mildly, is not the most pleasant person in communication. A creative crisis and a mental crisis have led to health problems. The writer's heart is out of order and urgently needs to be replaced. Help comes from an unexpected angle. Among Shubin’s admirers is a French businessman (Frederick Begbeder), the owner of a confectionery factory, who quickly finances a heart transplant operation, and in return asks the hero to write a story about the elephant.
Shubin is not happy with this offer. He has no ideas, his mood is bad. He wanders around Griboedov’s canal, moping in a gigantic apartment overlooking Spas on Spilled Blood, trying to persuade his daughter to give him a little granddaughter and cursing with a French nurse (Polina Agureeva). To top it all off, the writer no longer controls his lacrimal glands: at the most inopportune moments, it seems to everyone around that he is crying. Shubin blames the new heart for this and wants to know who he got it from.
The author and director of the credits "Elephant" is not specified. According to official information, this man "wished to remain anonymous." One of the main scandals of the current movie season hides behind a dry message, and in fact there is nothing secret in it. The picture was invented and directed by director Aleksey Krasovsky, the creator of Collector and Holiday. He removed his surname from the credits due to creative disagreements with the producers, who deprived the director of the right to the final editing.
Both sides after the premiere of the film at the festival in Vyborg made loud statements. The producers Aleksey Guskov and Sergey Selyanov showed the press the episodes excluded from the final version and accused the supporting actors of a bad game. In their opinion, the author’s intention has not undergone radical changes, and the production version, which is three minutes shorter than Krasovsky’s version, is “cleaner, more correct”. The director continued to insist on his own: many scenes are rearranged, logical chains are broken, meaning is lost.
An ordinary viewer, like the author of these lines, is unlikely to be able to compare the two versions in the near future. But in its current form, "Elephant" makes a strange impression. His best moments are those in which the reality around the protagonist seems to tremble and twist, exposing the grotesque gut. Here Shubin takes out his old heart from the hospital in a gurgling coiled up bank, here on a Petersburg roof in a pose that does not obey the laws of physics, a man freezes, here is a bank robbery that goes according to an unexpected scenario and ends with a torn jackpot instead of being detained.
But these fluctuations of reality do not become an artistic device, they are closed in themselves and lead to nothing. They are completely blocked by general goodness. “Elephant”, in short, is a story about a man who came out of a case, literally repaired the heartiness that failed over time, having learned to live with feelings outside, not inside (hence the whole line with unsolicited tears). However, in the film this transition is not really disclosed, if it does, it is somewhere behind the scenes, and in the frame Guskov’s character began to be rude to a pretty nurse for a long time, and then suddenly takes her as a co-author and romantically dumps her into the sunset.
If this is a re-education novel (and this is actually what it is), then the hero must go through some stages and have accompanying people along this path, as, for example, in the wonderful film “It Doesn’t Get Better”, where the eccentric misanthrope writer Jack Nicholson’s performance learned to live and feel anew with the active support of a small dog, a friendly waitress and a gay neighbor. For some reason, the Russian storyteller is repairing himself in splendid isolation, like a robot, occasionally interrupting into dialogues with colorful, but marginalized characters far from the background. To believe that such a person once created a great children's book is decidedly impossible.
The film, like the main character, has heart problems: either the rhythm will be beaten, then the pressure will not increase in time, then there will be noises in the form of a pathos soundtrack. Judging by the presence in the cast of the writer Frederick Begbeder, somewhere there was supposed to be French charm. But, as usual, the Russian longing came out.
Author: Ksenia Reutova