I live in the past, the present, and the future, I’m trippy like that!
Written By: Valentin Ezhov & Natalya Ryazantseva
Directed By: Larisa Shepitko
Living in the present is difficult, we all struggle with nostalgia for the past and worry towards the future. At least I’d like to think most of us do, because such nostalgia and worry are what make us human. When it comes to nostalgia the danger is always present to become so wrapped up in happy remembrances of the past that the present passes you by. Such is the case with Nadezhda Petrukhina in Krylya. She’s so wrapped up in the glory days of her youth and the war that her present never has any chance to match up. She’s so fond of her past that she neglects her present and won’t worry for a second about the future. Living that way isn’t impossible, but it’s very difficult, and most likely should lead to an empty and unfulfilled life.
Try as she might Nadezhda can’t move out of the past, and she really does try. It’s not easy to leave behind what was once great for something that is more mundane. This manifests itself in Nadezhda as an awkwardness. She has trouble in social situations because she doesn’t feel at home in the here and now. It’s difficult watching her try to interact with her daughter, a relationship that has been damaged almost beyond repair because of Nadezhda’s longing for the past. The people around Nadezhda know now, and have always known, that she was stuck in her glory days. This damaged her relationships, and has created situations where people are extremely uncomfortable around her. Simply put, Nadezhda places low importance on the present so that means she places low importance on the people who are a part of her present. For a daughter to live with the fact that her mother places more importance on her past than on her child, that’s bound to put strain on a relationship.
The way that Larisa Shepitko chooses to convey the isolation of Nazedha is very workmanlike. That’s not say that her film is visually uninteresting, but it’s not provocative. Rather, Gospozhá Shepitko focuses on the dryness of her lead character. The film is staid as a result, as reserved as Nazedha is at every moment in her life. There’s a brief moment during a rainfall when it appears as if Nazedha is about to open up and truly embrace being in the moment. During that sequence the film also opens up visually, but just as quickly as Nazedha scurries back into her shell of nostalgia so do the visuals retreat back to a staid nature.
Gospozhá Shepitko also has supreme confidence in Mayya Bulgakova as Nazedha. She places much of the film in the hands of her lead actress, trusting her to be more than capable of emoting without resorting to any loud or boisterous antics. The path chosen by Gospozhá Bulgakova is one of little outward expression. Her character can’t engage with the present so in accordance with this she doesn’t outwardly show engagement with the people or world that is currently happening. Nazedha adopts a fake smile and nondescript small talk to make it through the present. However, when Nazedha turns her attention back to the nostalgic old days the face of Gospozhá Bulgakova lights up like a Christmas tree. The love her character has for the past, and the disdain she feels for the present comes through loud and clear thanks to her ability to emote. The actress does something else, she slowly turns Nazedha into a character who harbors negative feelings for her own nostalgia because of the effect it is having on her present.
The first film I’ve ever seen from Gospozhá Shepitko did not fail to impress. Soviet film has become a thing for me, and the more I dig into Soviet cinema the more I am impressed by the majority of what I see. There’s a wide range of expression found in Soviet cinema, and Krylya is a female side of Soviet life that I had previously been unexposed to. Just as I’m interested in seeing more from Soviet cinema, I’m interested in seeing more female voices in Soviet cinema, from Gospozhá Shepitko and others. Krylya lives in the present and uses the past to say a lot about nostalgia and Soviet society. Nostalgia isn’t inherently negative, but Krylya presents a well thought out case for the damage that too much nostalgia can wreak upon a person.