Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Starring Ekateryna Rak, Paul Hoffman, Michael Thomas, Maria Hofstätter
“Simplicity is indeed often the sign of truth and a criterion of beauty.”
I read about this film when it played at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. The reaction was mixed: some absolutely loved it, some absolutely hated it. This, in my opinion, is a good sign. I hate it when a film causes a neutral reaction. So, when this DVD came to my doorstop from Palisades Tartan, I was intrigued.
The film opens as Olga (Ekateryna Rak) trudges through a blisteringly cold frozen landscape, a cluster of nuclear reactors nearby look ominous. She is a nurse in the Ukraine and desperately wishes for more for her and her child. She moonlights as an exotic dancer on the internet to make ends meet. When she is offered a job in the west, she jumps at the opportunity. She leaves the baby with her mother and travels toward what she hopes is the beginning of a new life. But, she soon learns that things are not what they seem.
Pauli (Paul Hoffmann) is a man at a crossroads in his life. Recently fired from his job as a security officer, he is excited when a job opportunity opens in the Ukraine with his stepfather. He feels, much like Olga, that this is a chance to change his life and his circumstances. However, he, like Olga, have some tough lessons ahead.
It would be impossible to elaborate in more detail the plot of this film. The above paragraphs really sum it up as this is one of those films that dialogue is used sparsely and nothing much “happens” in the film. Rather, this is a cinematic exploration of emotion and atmosphere. So, leave your expectations of a complicated or convoluted plot at the door.
I would best describe this film as a rumination on despondency. There are long scenes with very little dialogue and absolutely no music or score is used in the film so those with short attention spans have been warned. Also, if you are uncomfortable with nudity, both male and female, you have been suitably cautioned.
The performances are all very realistic and natural. Upon research, I learned that the director used several actual residents for scenes instead of actors for authenticity. This is a tactic that was used frequently in Italian Neorealism films to great effect and the choice works well in this film as well.
The cinematography by Edward Lachman (The Virgin Suicides, Howl, I’m Not There, Far From Heaven) is just as beautiful as a fan of his work would come to expect.
I can’t seem to find a word to describe how I feel about this film. This is not a film that is supposed to “entertain” the viewer. This is not a film that a viewer “enjoys” like a piece of candy or gum. This is a film that is created to illicit raw emotion from the viewer. And that is exactly what my experience was watching this film.
If you are an adventurous cinema fan, this is right up your alley. For those with short attention spans or fans of more traditional cinematic storytelling, this isn’t going to work for you.
Import/Export is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The film’s was intended to have the grainy look of an old film and it does on this DVD transfer. It was not a high budget exercise and it has a less expensive look on this DVD release as well.
Import/Export is presented in Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround and 2.0 Stereo. The dialogue is a mix of German and Russian and is offered with English subtitles. The dialogue is clear and easily understood.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Import/Export is presented in a standard amaray case with a low key artwork that suits the film presented well.
There are a few bonus features offered on this release. First, an interview with Ulrich Seidl and Edward Lachman in which they describe the intent of the film. A trailer for the film is offered along with other trailers for other Palisades Tartan releases.
The score in this category will be a bit low due to the sparseness of bonus features.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (not an average) 6.5/10