VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL Review

voices from chernobyl

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Director: Pol Crutchen

Genre: Documentary

Year: 2016

A sweeping, lyrical eulogy for lives lost and memories shattered, VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL (also known as LA SUPPLICATION) is an arresting portrait of the wandering spirits that roam the desolate ruins of Ukraine’s most historically controversial milieu. Chastising the exploits, the foreign interpretation, and the fictional horror stories that carve out our understanding of the nuclear fallout, director Pol Crutchen frames a meditative piece of cinematic poetry, a NIGHT AND FOG for the post-nuclear era, and a gorgeous invigoration of the very lives that were lost to this disaster.

Elegantly shifting from a dead man’s soliloquy to one delivered by a mourning parent, and so on ad infinitum, Crutchen displays a sentimentality that imbues this quasi-documentary with a unique dramatic charge. It is greatly indebted to Alain Resnais, but surrenders complete nihilism for a touch of empathy, seeking out a silver lining at every turn. Despite all its moral reprimands and morbid storytelling, there is a passion for virtuousness and integrity that would likely be missing in most other, more cynical renderings of this wasteland. Crutchen never forgets to put the human first, and despite the horrors of the stories at play, VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL elegantly sifts through each tragedy with a glimmer of hope, a chance at rebirth, and a fondness for the memories once shared. But it never forgets. For Crutchen’s film isn’t just one of illustration, but a treatise of redemption.
voices from chernobyl flint

Could be Flint, MI

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It is a warning sign of a mistake once made, and urges that we listen to these voices, whether they are in heaven or on earth. It’s an environmentalist film, but not one inundated with data dumping. It’s a documentary, but one that willfully avoids the talking heads that have come to define, hamper, and greatly disadvantage much of the genre. It is, at its core, a work of formal subversion and thematic transcendance. But, it is also one with purpose and a message. VOICES FROM CHERNOBYL accomplishes more in its brief 80 minutes than most films can with two hours and a triple-A cast. This is formal deconstruction, a postmodern documentary that reinterprets modes of exposition.

Its poetics are affecting, but never stray into a realm of manipulation. Whether it’s the story of a man going into the contaminated zone to reclaim his front door (an item needed to help in the proceedings of his daughter’s funeral), or the graphic, but never exploitative illustration of a man’s battle with “Chernobylian Cancer,” Crutchen remembers these people as exactly that: people. It’s a montage of tragedy, but also one that cares to challenge the way we engage with it. It neatly positions itself at a unique intersection of spirituality, never forgetting the secular nature of Soviet Ukraine. We aren’t here to merely cry, we are here to learn, and to repent.

voices from chernobyl goulash

Grieving, Gloomy, Goulash

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Each story as eviscerating as the rest, Crutchen reels you in through spiritual imbalance. This is a canvas of unrest. A film showered in a distinct unease. Our protagonists wander, hopeless and fraught, demonstrating a mixed anguish and revulsion for the deeds of the human race. It vilifies our devaluation of nature and our apathy for animal life. But it forms a gorgeous dichotomy as well, cherishing our love for one another, and mourning the loss of those who died valiantly, those who died in vain, and those whose life existed on the fringes of the Chernobyl disaster. It’s an embrace of the metaphysical. A film that certainly isn’t for everyone, but one that Luxembourg can be proud to have represent them in consideration for the 2017 Academy Award.

Verdict: Recommend

Sergio Zaciu

"When I make love, I realize eating steak was the preferable alternative." Sergio is the Crossfader Film Editor and a film connoisseur from Romania. He pretends to understand culinary culture enough to call himself an LA foodie, but he just can't manage to like scallops.

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