A chronicle of the civil uprising against the regime of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych that took place in Kiev in the winter of 2013/14. The film follows the progress of the revolution: from peaceful rallies, half a million strong in the Maidan square, to the bloody street battles between protesters and riot police.
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★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd
Ukraine has been through a traumatic 14 months and continues to battle against an invading Russian army that took advantage of the changes taking place in the country. Director Sergei Loznita's documentary was shot in three months, starting in December 2013, covering the uprising that came to be known as Euromaidan, before being shown at last years Cannes Festival.
There are similarities to be found with The Square released last year, that took us into the heart of the revolution in Egypt. The key difference being that whilst that film connected us to individuals and their plights through the struggle, Loznita positions his camera to give fixed-frame shots on the events taking place on the ground. There are no talking heads or narration to act as a guide, instead we are pitched into the heart of Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, watching on as events unfold.
We are taken though the stages of a resistance fed-up with President Viktor Yanukovych's government, steeped in corruption and guilty of damaging the country's ties with the EU. The square had effectively been claimed by protestors blockading the area, setting up a stage and building barricades to encircle the space. Peaceful demonstrations where people found solidarity and strength in numbers took place in response to the abuse of power by the authorities during the riots in November. The ambience of the crowd palpably changes before our eyes as anti-protest laws come into force and civilians clash with armed police.
The mood shifts from seeing passionate speakers heard off screen, concentrating on the milling crowds and smaller components of revolution, to scenes of billowing smoke, masked men hurling bricks at lines of riot shields and the sharp sound of tear gas exploding. Later the air becomes sombre as the crowd returns to the square to grieve for those who lost their lives. A audible groan of despair spreads when the speaker announces a 3-year-old girl has been made an orphan. With the camera facing a small section of the crowd at the front of the stage we hear an old folksong titled The Swimming Duck, powerfully capturing the melancholy of the aftermath.
Only a few title cards appear to inform us of what is taking place with the rest left for us to decipher. The importance of what is being filmed forgoes the need for the typical documentary rules and literally turns this into a 'live' document recording, that will no doubt be reflected upon for many years to come. This is the chaos of protest and revolution, shot with a purity that strips the whole process down to its essentials.
★★★½ review by Joe on Letterboxd
Conventional filmic wisdom states that if you want an audience to relate to a group of people, you pick a single character to represent it, then humanize him or her with personal details. He's got a wife and kids at home, he loves his dog, he likes to go bowling, his eyes look sad when no one's looking, etc etc etc. This is a pretty powerful contradiction of that approach, or at least proof that it's not the only way - there's no narrative or personal through-line whatsoever here, merely a series of detached, static camera shots showing huge groups of people going about the business of civil unrest, and yet it's 100X more humanizing and powerful than the visions of protesters (or "rioters") we see in the mainstream media. Yes, it's a little bit taxing on the ol' attention span, and yes, it could have probably stood a little bit of trimming, but I can't help but wish that Sergei Loznitsa (or someone like him) was around to capture events like this all over the world.
★★★★ review by Textor Texel on Letterboxd
Вот как-то так можно было показывать события на Майдане, если бы в России было адекватное телевидение, а не телевидение курильщика. К счастью, есть Сергей Лозница, который, старательно избегая любых намёков на ангажированность, представляет большое документальное полотно, сотканное из различных крупных и мелких элементов. Эффект присутствия потрясающий, особенно во второй части фильма. Отличный портрет культурного кода на постсоветском пространстве
★★★½ review by Lorenzo Benitez on Letterboxd
An exquisite series of immanent, yet detached, tableaux documenting a revolution underway. Shot with a long focal length that imbues its journalistic gaze with an ethereal, painterly quality, Maidan regards the protesters' fervor with respect, but not without drawing attention to the potential insignificance of their endeavor. While the nuance of this reading is the product of Loznitsa's restraint, such an austere style is also responsible for many sluggish periods, particularly when it allows relatively impotent scenes to overstay their welcome. Indeed, our minds wander, and many of the film's later images are 'overcooked', but in those moments when the framing of the director and the timing of the editor tease out the greatest meaning from the actions of the protesters, you get something truly sublime.
★★★½ review by Doug Dillaman on Letterboxd
I wish more documentaries took their cues from PLAYTIME. How many films tell a story of people in one place without having a character in them that we follow? More thoughts to come in my Lumiere wrap-up, probably.
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