The Wounded Angel

In a godforsaken Kazakh village four adolescent teenagers try to find their place in the world...


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  • ★★★★ review by Lise on Letterboxd

    March Around the World 2017 - Kazakhstan

    I now have a very difficult decision to make. Everything Jonathan and I have seen on MUBI so far has been fantastic, and if we keep this up we may get so used to high-quality gorgeous slow-paced lovely story-telling that it might ruin our tolerance for more standard fare. We might have to take a night off from the March Around the World Challenge to watch Logan or some other popular fare just to interrupt our streak of lovely cinema.

    I will admit that I got quite confused while watching The Wounded Angel. Had I not read up on it during the film I never would have known that it was about 4 different boys - I thought there were just 2 boys. And I also have to admit that I was this close to dozing a few times. All to say, if you do watch this at some point, make sure you are good and awake, for it is slow. It is slow but one of the most beautifully shot films I've ever seen. Remember Le Quattro Volte? (If not, add it to your watchlist). This film reminded me of that one. Not in terms of content - they are both quite different, but in terms of beauty and pace and the way the camera has a mind of its own and lingers as though longing to be a static camera.

    How is it that Afghanistan, Chad, Indonesia and now Kazakhstan make such compelling and wonderful films (yes, I do mean to finish that thought with "in comparison to...")

  • ★★★★½ review by Slappy McGee on Letterboxd

    Film #48 in MY YEAR OF MUBI

    This movie is wonderfully shot. So beautiful to look at. Some beautiful framing and picture composition.

    Which makes an amazing statement because WHAT is being filmed is so desolate and so NOT beautiful. Not only in the barren destruction of the country itself, but in the sadness and destruction of the boys' lives in this film.

    It's beautiful desolation and such depressing material elevated by the talent of the director and cinematographer. With almost no score, the entire story is told in downtrodden dialogue with meaningful gaps of silence. It's actually quite powerful this way.

    Four different stories of teenage boys going through some hard times to be sure. It's not the feel-good movie of the year... heh... but danged if it ain't an intriguing watch. Shows you the power of a strong director.

    (PLUS... it's a film about Kazakhstan NOT featuring Borat!!! High Five!)

  • ★★★★½ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd

    Part of Lise and Jonnie’s March Around the World 2017

    Film 5 – March 7th – Kazakhstan

    Lise and I are on a roll with Kazakhstan. She reminded me after we finished watching of The Owners, which we saw at TIFF back in 2014, and sadly never got theatrical or DVD distribution, and Tulpan, a story of Kazakhstanian Nomads that was wonderful with the exclusion of some rather grating scenes of a young girl vocalizing.

    The Wounded Angel is a chaptered observation of the lives and hardships of four boys on the precipice of adulthood making their way in rural Kazakhstan; each with his own dream. It’s quiet and contemplative and stunningly gorgeous. What was probably the most amazing aspect was the skill of these mostly first time actors; each delivering a completely authentic and heartfelt performance that is second to none.

    While watching, The Wounded Angel continuously reminded me of Kelly Reichardt’s delicate and nuanced Certain Women, as it explores many of the same themes of the deep emotional consequences of what looks like, on the surface, mild disappointments.

    I find it flabbergasting that this is Writer / Director / Editor Emir Baigazin’s second film. Not just his second film as the helmer, but his second film period. His debut, Harmony Lessons, is going straight to the watchlist. Another director, and another country, that I’m going to keep my eye on.

    Discoveries like this is the raison d'être for the 30 countries challenge. Thanks Berkin, and thanks to my wonderful sweetie for keeping this up; next to our annual TIFF vacation, my favourite movie month of the year.

  • ★★★★ review by Jacob Powell on Letterboxd

    Emir Baigazin frames so many of his shots like starkly beautiful paintings. Whether he’s using a doorway, a window, or a mirror, he creatively confines, obstructs, and distances viewer and character as if to say, 'You may see, but you can’t know'...

    [Read NZIFF 2016 capsule review at The Pantograph Punch.]

  • ★★★★ review by Nikola Gocic on Letterboxd

    After a relentlessly harrowing debut feature ironically titled Harmony Lessons (2013), the up-and-coming Kazakh auteur Emir Baigazin delivers another depressing portrait of anguished youth with his equally solid sophomore film The Wounded Angel.

    Drawing inspiration from the eponymous painting, as well as from the Tampere Cathedral frescoes by the Finnish symbolist Hugo Simberg, he paints the pains of growing up in the steppes of post-USSR Kazakhstan with precise and confident strokes. This time, he teams up with the Belgian cinematographer Yves Cape (Holy Motors), whilst staying true to his rigorous visual style of mostly static, yet brilliantly framed shots which mirror the characters' mental and emotional detachment.

    Through four loosely connected chapters depicting inconceivably grim childhoods of pubescent boys, Baigazin explores the themes of guilt and moral corruption against the backdrop of a decaying remote village in the mid 90s. Offering no glimmers of hope for his prematurely grown anti-heroes who appear as both victims and victimizers, he weaves an austerely poetic narrative embedded with strong social commentary. Once again, he assembles the cast of non-pros whose rigid, Bressonian performances intensify the imposing, suffocating atmosphere of sparse dialogue, ruin-porn imagery and absent music.

    In the first episode, Fate, a rascal, Zharas, follows in the footsteps of his no-good criminal father, convinced that he can support his mother on petty frauds. Following is The Fall which chronicles the cherub-voiced Chick's 'mutation' from a promising singer into an extortionist bully much alike Bolat from Harmony Lessons. The third and longest section, Greed (which has the looks of a post-apocalyptic drama by virtue of the abandoned factory setting), focuses on an outcast, Toad, who robs a trio of glue-sniffers acting as the figures from the Simberg's work in a bleakly witty live-action 'replica'. And, lastly, comes Sin which deals with an unintended pregnancy and the growing madness of the unborn's father, Aslan, ending on a subtly surreal note.

    These wounded, ostracized angels are brought together in a transfixing epilogue which removes them from the harsh reality and lets them have a few deserved moments of (illusory) piece and relief to the sounds of Chick's rapturous rendition of Ave Maria...

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