generated bad karma like Soviet Socialism. Nobody understands that better than a
defector like Alexander Ivanov. Even though he attained wealth and success in New
York, he is still haunted by the events surrounding his sudden departure.
Taking advantage of the Glasnost thaw, Ivanov’s niece will try to investigate
her murky family history in Shamin Sarif’s adaptation of her novel Despite the Falling Snow (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 California Independent Film Festival.
styles are radically different, but Lauren Ivanov is the spitting image of her
aunt, Katya Grinkova. Alexander Ivanov successfully found asylum in America,
but Grinkova never made it out of the USSR. Intellectually, Ivanov has a very
good idea of her probable fate, but the guilt and uncertainty have tormented
him for years.
it was Grinkova who was the American intelligence source. Although she played
the model Soviet citizen, she bitterly resented the Communist system for
executing her parents during the dark days of Stalinism. She initially
bedazzled the true believing Ivanov on the orders of her handler, Ivanov’s
colleague Misha. However, the mission really gets complicated when Grinkova and
Ivanov genuinely fall in love. Most of this will come as news to Lauren when
she travels to Moscow for an art exhibition. She even starts to get some
answers thanks to the help of a reformist journalist, but the mysterious Marina
has her own agenda in play.
combines an elegant memory play with a period espionage thriller to tell an intriguing
tale, in which the toxic past continues to corrode the present day (circa 1992).
It is a smart and sophisticated, but it is not necessarily out to re-ignite the
Cold War. Nevertheless, whenever the Soviet apparatchiks have the chance to do
something despicable, they never let it go to waste. There is a bit of le Carré-style
moral ambiguousness, but it is pretty clear the KGB was far worse than their
western counterparts—and most bacterial diseases.
Ferguson is just terrific as Grinkova and her niece. She gives two performances
so different in look and temperament, she could easily pass for two people. As
usual, the eternally reliable Charles Dance enriches the film with his steely
gravitas and commanding voice, which are so well suited to suave old Ivanov.
Sam Reid is bit bland and unassuming as his younger self, but Oliver
Jackson-Cohen chews the scenery quite nicely as the darkly charismatic Misha. As
Marina, Antje Traue’s intriguing screen presence also cranks up the sexual
tension, in keeping with the themes of Sarif’s prior films, I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen.
Falling Snow is a classy film
that hits the right tragically romantic notes. Sarif handles the constantly
shifting timelines relatively well and ties it all together into a satisfying
package. Recommended for those who enjoy an old fashioned Cold War melodrama, Despite the Falling Snow screens this
Sunday (9/11) at the Orinda Theatre as part of this year’s CAIFF in the East
Labels: British Cinema, CAIFF '16, Charles Dance, Rebecca Ferguson, Spy dramas