'My Galactic Twin Galaction' by Sasha Svirsky Review: Connecting the (Red) Dots

My Galactic Twin Galaction by Sasha Svirsky / Film Review

Even long before Sasha Svirsky fixed his gaze on cosmic depths, he used to be labeled as a ‘man from the moon’ – since had suddenly appeared, a little more than a decade ago, on the professional horizon nationally as if from nowhere, with seemingly well-developed style and approach of his own, maybe somewhat amateurishly-wild or just a bit too naively-daring, but exactly in that shockingly, liberatingly fresh. A self-taught auteur with already a number of self-made films behind his shoulders – an ultimate independent, a rare exotic breed in that ecosystem.

In fact, he came from a rather remote village in Southern Russia. Upon graduating from art school, with a kind of classic training, Sasha would be drawing a lot, drifting towards hand-made books, incorporating texts and sketches, and then discovering for himself animation, more of the early Internet groups variety, learning Flash – and off you go, making films non-stop, it looks.

Studios and certain commercial commissions would appropriate this energy, or rather this independent spirit would appropriate the opportunities, always ready to decline anything too restrictive or alien to him.

Related: 9 Ways to Draw A Person

With the help of his wife-turned-producer Nadezhda (Nadya) Svirskaia, an indispensable partner in all the endeavors, Sasha launches onto international festivals orbit with more and more ambitious works (like 'Tanzonk', '9 Ways to Draw a Person'; while the two latest to the date, 'Galaction' and 'Vadim on a Walk', 2021, premiered at Berlinale Shorts). 

At the outbreak of war last year, they are among the most outspoken protesters and soon leave the country, for now residing in Berlin. The online release of this 2020 film is accompanied by a determinate director-producer's disclaimer: “At the beginning of the film, you can see a red dot. There is supposed to be the State logo showing that we have got finance for the film production from the Russian Ministry of Culture. We don't want to pretend that it wasn't there before.[...] But after the mad Russian military invasion of Ukraine. We don't want to spread this criminal sign anymore.”(full statement 

Watch 'My Galactic Twin Galaction'

At first glance, it’s classic Svirsky (it bears noting that maybe there is such a thing already as ‘Svirsky’s canon’, with the certain following, manifested from earliest indie music clips and semi-absurdist poetry adaptations to the latest quasi-narrative ones). In his own formulations: “A central feature of my artistic method is spontaneity. The usage of a wide variety of techniques, such as mixing digital drawings, hand drawings on paper, photos, collage, and 3D". Everything of the above is in place; but at the same time, it gives a feel of twisting the paradigm if not breaking it radically. The self-definition seems to omit one significant point: Svirsky's work also reveals a complex collision between the visual and the verbal. In earlier films that was more of textual matter on the screen, letters, written text as a graphic element, almost. Here there is a voice-over (read mostly by the director himself).

Despite the declaration that the method at large “allows me to dissolve any narration if it appears in a particular film”, there seems to be a narrative line here, plainly spoken and illustrated, and seemingly, or superficially, a rather lightheartedly-straightforward one. And kind of from the first person, if lightly masked by the constructed substitute, a ‘character’: so, a spam-like email comes from another galaxy, of all places, a supposed twin shows up, the relations to be built, and so on. Well, of course, that’s all deceptive, to a degree, an eye-con, trompe l’oeil; his narratives are in any case more of visual nature; and the very pace and rhythm, so densely fast and tense, as if freezes the frame, paradoxically or not, shifts the visuality from the filmic more to fine-arts realm (as was noted by some critics), into the mode of observing-reflecting. And at the end, he demonstratively cleans up what had become ‘too much of narrative’ from all the ‘surplus of unnecessary details’, leaving behind just twin pictographic silhouettes. Yet another way to draw a person…

Nevertheless, we can easily read-in here the interstellar identity search or rather longing for earthly kinship. It’s a self-portrait, no doubt, if only in a light playful disguise, through the twinning intermediary; not exactly doppelganger-themed exercise, but rather somewhat masked introspection, more directly personal, than appearance would suggest; with all the playfulness of radically-absurd imagery and moves – may be quite serious trying-on, assuming the variants-options of destiny.

But let’s try, for a change, to take this almost ‘direct speech’ at face value – especially looking through that sacramental red dot. It’s after all, Star Wars reincarnated or hinted to: yet another world threatens the twins’ one, and they take arms to defend it shoulder to shoulder. Isn't it a symptomatic premonition… And one more thing. Among all the collaging images, one becomes almost predominant: panel buildings, huge apartment blocks at times stand just as a general background, as if a grid of reference – and as an emblematic sign of dull and oppressive unification, to get rid of… But when we see in daily newscasts exactly this kind of environment, the heritage of the era, going up in smoke, in bombings tantamount to ‘urbicide’, - the accents shift, with tragic inevitability. 

So then, this edgy-risky, cryptic on the surface filmmaking reveals its hidden strength in prophetic insight.

contributed by: Mikhail Gurevich

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