III: The Ritual (2015)

Director: Pavel Khvaleev
Writers: Aleksandra Khvaleeva, Oleg Mustafin (story by), Evgeniya Mustafina (story)
Stars: Polina Davydova, Lyubov Ignatushko, Evgeniy Gagarin

An unknown fatal disease has swept through an unnamed small medieval type town. It has claimed many of this towns inhabitants but notably the mother of sisters Aya (Davydova) and Mirra (Ignatushko) who seek solace in each other after their tragedy. Father Herman (Gagarin), who is a friend of the family tries to help where he can and bring them both some measure of comfort.

But Mirra seems to be shunning religion and questioning her own beliefs. When she herself falls ill and Aya is told to leave the village as doors are barred from the outside, she takes Mirra to the local priests house to seek help. Father Herman reassures her and says her sister can be saved but that the disease is in her mind. A shamanistic ritual to enter her subconscious can be done to try and save her. What Aya finds will test her and her own demons though.

When taking notes while watching films and then subsequently when writing the reviews, some just come to you easily, whether they be good or bad films in their own right. Other films are just so much harder to grasp and III: The Ritual falls into this latter category. There is so much I could say about it, yet I do not want to spoil anything or give too much away. The film has a style of its own and the subject matter seems to twist from one area to another until its real purpose is finally revealed as something completely different to what you thought it would be.

We are not told when the film is set, where or anything really. But this works in context to what you see as this really is a visually beautiful film to watch. Throughout watching I was curious as to where exactly it was set. Certainly I had my ideas and some were correct, but the language threw me off. This is a Russian film and the landscapes are quite literally breathtaking. There is some wonderful cinematography on show here. On the flip side to this film, nearly all town sequences were set in the stunning and beautiful Marburg in the Hessen region of Germany. This is a wonderful old-world fairy tale type of place and the location is used to its utmost advantage.

As well as the excellent photography, the soundtrack while odd and certainly different at times, fits the mood and atmosphere with such precision it is very impressive. Likewise, direction is very clever and the film contains some lovely dark and rich tones, while other scenes are dreary and washed out. All in all the whole film has been put together very well. Even more incredible when actors aside, less than ten people worked on this on an incredibly low budget. What they achieved is nothing short of remarkable, and this is a worthy inclusion in my ‘what you can do with little money’ list. Many a blockbuster should take note.

As for the film itself, this is one very confusing mess. By design or not, it certainly stays with you. Acting is also very good all round with no one looking out of place or seeming stilted. There are lots of subtle hints everywhere which only really become apparent at the films climax, which somewhat comes out of the blue and leaves you with an eerie and disturbed feeling. Script is a little weak and the film relies heavily on a narrated voice-over which may be to your liking or not.

There’s really not much more to be said. A truly strange, well crafted, haunting film that came across to me while watching it as some kind of strange, menage-a-trios of Russel, Lynch and Carpenter that resulted in a hybrid love child. Russian films over the years can be very hit and miss, and they do have their own style, so if all that sounds weird enough for you and has peaked your interest, I urge you to go and find this interesting little title and see what you think.


The Sage’s Rating:
Three Stars

Posted in Drama, Foreign Lang, Horror, Thriller and tagged , , , , .

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