Maidan (2014) | DVD | Blu release

March 1st, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Maidan 3D DVDDir.: Sergei Loznitsa; Documentary; Netherlands/Ukraine 2014, 133 min.

After his impressive feature films MY JOY and IN THE FOG  Sergei Loznitsa returns to documentary filmmaking with MAIDAN. Even though he captures a historical event – the removal of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych from power – viewers might mistake MAIDAN for a well-directed feature, shot in the style of Eisenstein.

In November 2013 Yanukovych declined to sign an agreement for Ukraine’s associate membership with the European Union, obviously under pressure from Russia. Nationalist protesters started gathering around Maidan Square (Maidan roughly translates into “independence”). At first the mass meetings were peaceful but they escalated in January 2014 into fighting after the introduction of a law to curb the activities of the ever-growing number of protesters. Only one month later, after over hundred nationalist protesters had died, Yanukovych fled the country, leading the way to new elections. The rest is history still in the making.

MAIDAN is shot with a static camera (just one movement, caused by teargas, when the cameraman had to flee), a small number of inter-titles give sparse information, no interviews, just crowd scenes, and mostly off-screen speeches and poetry readings. Loznitsa really has taken his Eisenstein to heart: the crowd is everything. He frames their milling around; their running; the panic; the singing and the eating and drinking. The majority of them are middle-aged or even older citizens, grey is definitely the dominant hair colour. They sing anthems and other traditional songs with gusto, unashamed nationalism pores out. Somehow it feels like a delayed settlement with Russia  because these men and women must have marched in countless Stalinist rituals on the same square. Yes, their nationalism is over-the-top, the involvement of the church leaders perhaps not that appropriate, the invocation of the “Cosack” nation leaves a rather nasty taste – but at no point does Loznitsa succumb to agitation: his painterly style shows us pure emotion whatever the historical background. In his detachment, Loznitsa iis more interested in small details of the ad-hoc organisation, in near still images of people gathering to eat, creating a commune-like feeling in the first part of the documentary.

MAIDAN is, ironically, a triumph of soviet documentary style. But this is not old-fashioned, because the protesters are, for the most part, not the young angry crowd of the Arab spring and other recent uprisings but citizens whose memories go back a long time, and their anger is not just a spur of the moment, but the result of decades of Russian domination. Their cringing nationalism and the huge presence of Russians in the Ukraine, which might lead to a partition of the country, is another issue. But, in the true style of Eisenstein, Loznitsa has captured the will of the people, with all their emotional might. We should not begrudge them this moment of triumph, because they might have to pay for it with the loss of large parts of their country. AS

ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | DVD | 13 APRIL 

 

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