The Student

Veniamin, a teenager in the midst of a mystical crisis, has his mother, schoolmates and entire high school turned upside down by his questions. - Can girls go to their swimming classes in bikinis? - Does sex education have a place in school? - Should the theory of evolution be taught as part of the Natural Sciences? The adults are soon overwhelmed by the certitudes of the youngster who swears only by Scripture. No one but Elena, his biology teacher, will alone challenge him on his own ground.

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  • ★★★★½ review by raft_dkh on Letterboxd

    Director Kirill Serebrennikov’s film The Student is a bitterly dark movie, one which shows the slow corruption of a society, primarily in this case through religion, but also through any number of prejudices and causes. The film is a deeply visceral look at hate, zealotry, and human callousness, told through the story of a Russian high school student who begins to quote from the Bible and espouse a vitriolic form of Christianity. The Student is exhausting, and to a certain extent feels almost unnecessarily brutal, but one senses a political urgency in this film as well, an urgency which positions the authority (the principal’s office is adorned with symbols of the Russian state, including a Stalin-esque photograph of Vladimir Putin hanging above the door) as complicit in fanning the flames of hate for its own ends. The film’s unfolds often in a series of breathlessly long takes, with its handheld camera bringing us close to the volatile characters. In an inspired move, the film also inserts citations every time a character quotes from the Bible, a tasteful, austere bit of text fading in every now and then which heightens the brutal irony of the scenes, particularly when the main character expresses his radical Old-Testament hatefulness.

    I don’t know how to reckon with films such as this. On one hand, it is incredibly engaging, and it is hard to deny the exquisite mastery of craft in its flowing long shots, dystopic cinematography, or committed performances. On the other, it is deeply uncomfortable to watch, and not necessarily nuanced in its handling of these themes. But then again, perhaps that is what is needed nowadays. I give this film a high rating, but with the caveat that I don’t know if I could handle it again.

  • ★★★★½ review by Dace Čaure on Letterboxd

    This film raises a lot of questions. But these are not addressed to self, no, I would like to ask them to the director. In the discussion after the screening Serebrennikov got into a heated debate with himself about the meaning of belief and religion in one's life, but the film got sorta forgotten, so I did not get my answers.

    All I know is I loved the film. There were quite a few problems with it, yes, the main one being the characters who seemed not like people, but more like typical expressions of the included ideas. But in this case I am not angry about it, because it was exactly what this - a film about ideas - needed. I don't believe it's something the director has overlooked, especially knowing that he pays attention to every single detail in his frame. The ending might seem a bit anti-climatic, as suddenly I felt I was watching a completely different story (and told in a less attentive way), but there comes my questions to the filmmaker, answers to which I probably need to find on my own.

  • ★★★★ review by Robert on Letterboxd

    Serebrennikov’s farcical stylings do justice to his critique of society’s collective resistance (be it religious or narrow-minded) to progress and he does employ some clever cinematography, but the source material screams stage play, which makes the proceedings feel distant and characters somewhat alien. Great, but possibly a bit too mannered for its own good.

  • ★★★★ review by Ģirts Luste on Letterboxd

    Pāris reizes gadā krievu kinematogrāfā uzpeld pērles, kuras kinomīļiem ignorēt ir absolūts grēks. Šogad viena no šīm pērlēm ir Kirila Serebreņņikova The Student / Māceklis / Ученик.

    Lai neizplūstu spriedelējumos par filmas ideju, tās realizāciju un lietotajiem instrumentiem, kas pēcfilmas jautājumi&atbildes sesijā ar pašu režisoru, pierādijās ir neizmērojami plaši un lielākajā daļā (īstenībā) nesaistīti ar pašu filmas sižetu, vēlējos tikai pateikt, ka pretēji maniem pagāniskajajiem uzskatiem, Māceklis uzrunā arī ļoti vispārīgi un pasaulīgi.

    Filmā nav jāfokusējas uz Jaunās derības citātiem, to nozīmi konkrētajās ainās un nav būtiski, ka šajā darbā, oriģināli lugā, kas tagad pārtapusi par pilnmetrāžas filmu, visi tēli ir arhitipi, bet ne “reāli cilvēki” un situācijas ir izteikti mākslīgi sakāpinātas, bet jāvēro/jāvērtē ir ideju cīņas. Ideju un uzskatu šķelšanos. Skumjo nespēju sadzīvot un uzklausīt vienam otru. Kā arī, Māceklis ir krāšņš portrets fanātisku uzskatu nemākulīgai virzīšanai pareizajās sliedēs, kur šis neizmērojamais spēks varētu tikt izmantots kā spēcīgs instruments vadot dzīvē apmulsušos, kā rezultātā rodas indivīdi, kuri veic mūsdienās tik šausminoši bieži vērojamos ar (it kā) reliģiskiem uzskatiem motivētos teroraktus.

    Starpcitu, Māceklis uzrunā arī ar šekspīrisku drāmas saltumu un skatītājam liek uzdot jautājumus nevis atbild uz tiem.

  • ★★★½ review by oumaima on Letterboxd

    enjoyed how its filmed more than what was being filmed

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