Poor Dushka

// Газета "Element"

Dushka is a film that takes you by surprise. A bus carrying kerchiefed babushki, accordion-playing peasants and a rubicund pregnant woman rolls down a Russian country road. The woman goes into labor and a child is born — Dushka. The scene shifts to Holland, where a lonely, middle-aged film critic, Bob (Gene Bervoets), divides his time between his sepulchral apartment and the cinema across the street. His chief occupation is lusting after the bubblegum-chewing cashier, the terrifyingly pretty Sylvia Hoeks. When she finally winds up back at his place, their congress is interrupted by a knock at the door — Dushka, played by Russian actor Sergey Makovetksy.

This apparently homeless Russian has come, unannounced and unwanted, to live with the critic. Bob tries to rid himself of Dushka, first politely then more forcefully, but his guest has a canine tenacity, or perhaps loyalty, which is indomitable. Up to this point, the story is told simply, almost without dialogue; but when Dushka’s presence begins to drive his friend to the brink of despair, you start asking yourself questions that the remainder of the film doesn’t answer. In what brand of reality is this film located? Are these actual characters, or ciphers for some other meaning? Instead of answers we get a story of a relationship that becomes more emotionally complex, bizarre and gripping as it progresses. It is the story of unconditional affection which, when unreciprocated, can be more destructive than hatred. Bob cannot accept Dushka’s love, and destroys himself by struggling against it. The film is deliberately abstract, as intangible as the human emotions that drive it, but at the same time its emotional message is crystalline. This is cinema that must be felt, not examined, and “Dushka” made me feel far more than I ever expected.

Francis Merson


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