VIFF 2018: Volcano


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      What could be a political thriller built around the nightmare of kidnapping and underground civil war is instead a more darkly comical, at times almost meditative study of society in unnervingly vague transition.

      Newcomer Serhiy Stepansky, previously a sound technician on Ukrainian movies, plays an urbane UN worker on an undefined rural assignment when he loses his way in a vast hinterland filled with abandoned projects, wandering mercenaries, and main-chancers just trying to keep their heads above water. That last part is literal, as the movie’s title is a local nickname for a region recently wiped out when dam waters were released. The charm of the movie, which recalls eastern European picaresques like The Saragossa Manuscript, is that its initially arrogant protagonist is never sure if he’s been abandoned or, in fact, liberated.