Thursday, 15 July 2010

Kin-Dza-Dza (1986)

Guest blogger Brianosaurus strikes again!

There’s nothing worse than being out of the loop on something you love. In my case, I love sci-fi. L O V E it. So recently I was a little distressed when I checked out IMDb's list of top 50 sci-fi movies and noticed that not only were there a few I had not seen, but more than a few I had not even heard of! (Note: see the bottom of the list to learn how IMDb calculates its ratings.) I had no choice: I had to start watching some movies.

Nestled at #34 on the list (between Night of the Living Dead and Solaris) sits Kin-Dza-Dza!, a fabulously funny bit of dystopian Russian social parody. The reader must take note that I’ve always had a soft spot for Russia. But Russian cinema (and literature) is often as bleak as a Siberian work camp. Kin-dza-dza!, directed by Georgi Daneliya, is refreshing in both its originality and clever humor.

Lots of sci-fi gets caught up in trying to explain itself. Kin-dza-dza! gets started so brilliantly that no explanation as to the who-what-when-where is required. Trust me, you’ll be hooked in the first 5 minutes like I was! All the viewer needs to know is that Vladimir (Stanislav Lyubshin, a Russian Roger Moore) and Gedevan (Levan Gabriadze) have wound up unwillingly on the planet Pluke (in the Kin-dza-dza galaxy).

Gedevan and Vladimir meeting the locals.

The story follows Vladimir and Gedevan as they try and make their way back to Earth. In order to do so they must navigate a bizarre and barren world which they know nothing about. On Pluke there is a seemingly nonsensical system of social hierarchy that, like many things in the film, isn’t explained because it simply cannot be. This is one of the reasons the movie works and I liked it so much. Just think about how much senseless racism and other social norms exist in our culture that can’t be explained. Unfortunately our travelers are on the low end of the totem pole and must, amongst other things, give homage to superiors in an amazing ritualistic display! (Unless said superior is wearing yellow pants, then they must do it twice!) Below is Wef and Bi (Evgeni Leonov and Yuriy Yakovlev, Russian Danny DeVito and John Cleese respectively) performing said display!

"Koo! Koo! Koo!"

Our protagonists wander the deserts of Pluke with the innocent misdirection of unprepared tourists. This allows the viewer to follow along and learn as they do. Not only is there a language barrier (for a concise Plukanian dictionary go here), but the entire planet is on a different system for EVERYTHING! For example, matches appear to be the most valuable item, and if you don’t wear your tsak (nose bell) you’ll get in trouble with an ecilop (police officer). Basically imagine you got dropped in the middle of Mos Eisley without Obi-Wan to cut off dudes' hands when things didn’t go right.

" a society without purpose."

Kin-dza-dza is a great movie. It’s simple and fun and pokes fun at (and makes us consider) our own society. I highly recommend it.

Note: This film is not currently available outside of Russia (where it was a hit). In order to watch it, you might be able to click here and here for a fan-subbed version of the film.

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