Thus, without any kind of subtlety, metaphors or any kind of figurative language, begins 'Dau', one of the greatest epics in the history of European cinema (if not worldwide) that makes a meticulous and critical analysis (as it could not be otherwise) of one of the most bloodthirsty regimes in the history of mankind; the sovietic Union.
And that, therefore, requires a meticulous analysis of the catechism written by Marx and Engels a couple of centuries ago. But let's go to the beginning, what is Dau?
From a biopic to a study of Soviet repression
The chieftain, this will be understood later, of this project Ilya Khrzhanovskiy describes 'Dau' as "the first film about isolation shot in isolation by isolated people." What at first was going to be a biopic of Lev Landau, a scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to physics, little by little became something much bigger and lunatic that tried to make a study of Soviet repression with the central axis of this physicist who worked for the state; or, rather, the single party.
Although this isolation in 2020 would take on another meaning, it is understood as isolation to the entire set of Soviet republics that until the fall of the Berlin Wall were years and years without any contact with Western culture.
When you say lunatic it is because the director came up with the mindless but brilliant idea of building a giant set where to recreate the laboratory where this scientist would work and, not content with that, lock up a group of actors there (many of them non-professionals) to recreate what was the USSR between the 30s and 60s.
Everything was carefully studied and everyone followed the orders of a new dictator, who in this case was the Machiavellian director of the film (s). The result, after two years of recordings, translates into more than 700 hours of material (according to its official website) compressed into fifteen films and five series.
Marked by the rules of the Soviet Union, the actors lived in that time capsule for a period of two years (we imagine they would leave and enter at the convenience of the narrative) under the rules and restrictions of freedom typical of an authoritarian regime.
So far the first eight parts of the project have been released. 'Dau: Natasha' and 'Dau: Degeneration' were seen last year at the Berlin festival and now within the framework of D'A in Barcelona, they can be seen at Filmin; the rest are available on the official website of Dau paying a symbolic rent, since the pandemic prevented their passage through festivals last year. It seems that the seven titles that are to be seen will have space in some contest throughout this year or already in 2022.
Where to start with 'DAU'
'Dau. Natasha 'is a secondary work when it comes to studying Dau's life, but it is a great film that makes us understand the terror that could be experienced by the impositions of the party. It tells the story of Natasha, the waitress at the secret laboratory canteen, and her relationship with her employees.
Everything will change when she has sex with a visiting scientist and her party accuses her of treason. Although the critique of communism as an ideology is not so latent in this piece, 'Dau. Natasha 'helps us to see the dimension and degree of paranoia and terror with which one could come to live in a society where every movement could be considered treason, any small detail (not carrying a passport on him) was a reason for arrest and in consequences torture or forced labor that, on many occasions, would lead to death.
'Dau. Natasha 'is a film drenched in alcohol, an element used to show the loss of control over oneself, since its protagonist tends to give vodka after his work days and it will be in this context that he begins to interact with the senior managers from the lab and having sex with this guest scientist.
In an explicit scene, with not simulated and quite extensive penetration, Ilya Khrzhanovskiy executes an unpleasant exercise in voyeurism that explains very well the constant collectivity of a regime where privacy and individual freedom were unthinkable and punished.
This form of false subtlety (abrupt and unpleasant images loaded with meaning) is the general line on which 'DAU' is built, in the extreme and absolute dehumanization of all the characters that translates into the closed space where its actors coexisted that it recreates very well a nation that could not be escaped and to understand that from a theoretical point of view there are the six hours of 'Dau: Degeneration'.