Directed by Sergey Loznitsa
In August 1991 a failed coup d'état attempt (known as Putsch) led by a group of hard-core communists in Moscow, ended the 70-year-long rule of the Soviets. The USSR collapsed soon after, and the tricolour of the sovereign Russian Federation flew over Kremlin. As president Gorbachev was detained by the coup leaders, state-run TV and radio channels, usurped by the putschists, broadcast Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" instead of news bulletins, and crowds of protestors gathered around Moscow's White House, preparing to defend the stronghold of democratic opposition led by Boris Yeltsin, in the city of Leningrad thousands of confused, scared, excited and desperate people poured into the streets to become a part of the event, which was supposed to change their destiny. A quarter of a century later, Sergei Loznitsa revisits the dramatic moments of August 1991 and casts an eye on the event which was hailed worldwide as the birth of "Russian democracy".
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★★★★½ review by Valtteri Lepistö on Letterboxd
My lord, it was all existing footage! Pretty much perfect editing as if Loznitsa was really there with his camera; documentary becomes cinematic fiction, cinematic fiction becomes the truth. Groups are observed in their moment, unfortunately we know better even if we are, within this film, placed very physically to the present. Still there is something in the camera that is above simple cinematic storytelling or newsreels/documenting; perhaps it is the editing that gives this film its spirit, it becomes cinema through this magical measure of crafting. Cinema truly is sculpting time and it is ultimately about very few and subtle things, realizations, that make cinema. In this sense this is really minimalism; even if there is power in the images, the formal truth what makes it art and cinema especially, lies in somewhere else. Cinema is never simply just beautiful images or a story, it must be something else and this is what we need in today's film scene; realizations.
★★★★½ review by Artem Rakov on Letterboxd
The future belongs to crowds
★★★½ review by K. Galina on Letterboxd
it is so so so strange to look at those streets which are my own streets i have known since childhood and know the Event depicted only took place 4 years before i was born. the USSR seems like such a distant past because i have never known it personally, but really it was not such a long time ago. its silly, but i kept looking at the countless people in the frames, looking for my mums face - she turned 23 on that day (same age as i am now!!) and she was in the city at the time.
★★★½ review by Connor Denney on Letterboxd
Like Patricio Guzmán's The Battle of Chile: Part 1, the shots in The Event are always searching, looking around with an almost desperate curiosity in order to capture everything it possibly can. The footage feels constrained, as if the camera's narrow range of vision is an unfortunate damper on its ability to accurately depict the occurrences. Though perhaps a problem for historical records, this technological inhibition is no problem for the film's quality, as it captures a hurried sense of anticipation; the knowledge that something huge could happen (on- or off-camera) at any moment hangs over every moment of this film. As in Maidan, director Sergei Loznitsa is still interested with what a revolution looks like, and though he obviously had a bit more challenging job of exploring this idea in a film composed entirely of historical footage, there is certainly priority given to the appearance of the uprising rather than any clearly understood exposition.
★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd
Following Maidan, last year’s impeccable the-revolution-is-live bulletin from Ukraine, Sergei Loznitsa returns to the found-footage format with which he first came to international prominence. The Event is in many respects a logical follow-up to Maidan, and attentive viewers will detect certain formal and ideological echoes. Centred on the military coup that represented the death rattle of the USSR, The Event is composed of footage from independent documentarians in the heart of what was Leningrad. As is Loznitsa’s method, we are witnessing seismic history from the street, and as with Maidan this means several things. First, we are thrust into the middle of the crowd, buffeted hither and thither, and this often makes it difficult to get our bearings. This is entirely intentional, and goes hand in hand with the second element of The Event: we are witnessing confusion in action. “Is Gorbachev dead?” “Why is the TV only showing the Bolshoi Ballet?” “We have to seal the records,” etc. The situation is one of constant change, even as the Soviet coup leaders try in vain to establish normalcy. Granted, we know how the story ends. But Loznitsa’s editing and choice of material—passages separated by black leader and the main theme from Swan Lake—depicts both the chaos and the raw power of mass demonstration, people gathering in the street to demand their rights. Of course, The Event is also a prelude to a tragedy, since we all know (and Loznitsa knows we know) that the bold experiment in Russian democracy ends with oligarchs and Gazprom and Old You-Know-Who. But given that The Event is constructed as honest, humble heroism without a trace of irony, clearly Loznitsa is implying that it’s time to hit the streets again.
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