By Liselotte Vanophem
Whether you’re into indie, house, techno or pop, escaping your daily life through music is the best feeling there is. Not only because of the music itself, but also because of the people you’re experiencing it with.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, the love for music connects us all. But what if you’re not the one who decides what you listen to? Or even worse: what you do in general? Then you can only do one thing: Rebel against them who take away your (musical) rights.
That’s exactly what director Kirill Serebrennikov (“The Student”; “Yuri’s Day”) does with his latest movie “Leto”. His view on Russia in the ’80s and his uprising against the government turned this film into an incredibly rock ‘n roll, fast, unique and compelling one.
Director Serebrennikov takes you back to Russia, 1980’s. Rock music is finding its way into the Russian music industry and young and talented bands, like the one from Viktor Tsoy (Teo Yoo), are on the lookout for their first record deal.
However, due to the conservative regime of Russia, this is anything but easy. While Tsoy and his band feel the restraint of that regime, the older bands, such as the one from Mayk ‘Mike’ Vassilievitch Naumenko (Roma Zver), feel their fame fading away slowly.
As in every creative industry, there’s room for competition but also collaboration. Mike decides to support Viktor in every way possible.
However, he’s not the only one who sees the potential of this upcoming, musically gifted and intriguing musician. His wife Natalia Vassilievana ‘Natasha’ Naumenko does as well but maybe for more than just music related reasons.
Still, Mike continues to help them. A decision that might have a bigger impact on his career, his personal life and the lives and careers of everyone around him than he originally thought. Especially when he feels the pressure from the Russian repression.
Some parts of this film are based on reality (such as the Russian idol Viktor Tsoi) while some elements are purely fiction. Figuring out what’s real and what’s not makes “Leto” even more interesting.
One thing’s for sure: Serebrennikov knows how to film the Soviet in the ’80s in the most unique way possible. This is partly because the movie was shot in black and white.
According to the director, shooting in black and white was the only way to capture the story of this generation perfectly as colours weren’t present in Russia at the time.
Another element that contributes to that real-life experience is the usage of raw and (almost) uncut footage. It feels like you’re alongside the protagonists during every second of their rebellion.
Whether they’re attending an underground gig, coming together with a group of friends for a small party or having an intimate time with their lovers, you’re just in the moment with them.
Of course, the most important element of this film is the music and so “Leto” is filled with songs, whether they’re unique ones or (covers from) well-known bands.
The authenticity of this movie is being created by the usage of original (restored) instruments and songs from local artists such as Zooparks and Viktor Tsoï’s.
The way the tunes are performed is exactly the same way the musicians used to do it back in the ’80s. Songs from the more acclaimed Talking Heads, Iggy Pop and David Bowie are also used in the film. Serebrennikov gives an extraordinary twist to those songs so don’t expect the original ones.
One of the artists who play a major role in this movie is Roma Zver, who’s a musician, songwriter, and vocalist in his rock band Zveri. He makes his film debut in “Leto” and because of the life-like character he has to play, he puts on an extremely strong, emotional and on-point performance as Mike. Zever’s rock band was also in charge of various soundtracks for this film.
Besides him, we also see the excellent and very talented Yoo (“The Moment”; “Bitcoin Heist”), who’s perfectly cast as Viktor Tsoï, the frontman of the rock band Kino. Actress Irina Starshenbaum (“T-34”; “Ice”) is providing “Leto” with a beautiful, wonderful and emotional female touch as Nastasha, a dedicated wife and a responsible, young mother.
During the making of this film, director Serebrennikov was detained by the Investigative Committee of Russia. They suspected him of being the brains behind a fraud scheme involving a state subsidy from the Russian government.
Because of that, he had to finish the editing of this movie while being under house arrest. “Leto” is even more important than you thought as there are clearly parallels between Russia in the ’80s and the current Russia.
Serebrennikov is fully aware that the power needs to be taken back by the people and his powerful, loud, emotional and rebellious film will hopefully contribute to that.
Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com on August 22, 2019.