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4 aka FOUR aka CHETYRE
USA: Leisure Time Features
UK: ICA Projects
Cast: Marina Vovchenko, Irina Vovchencko, Svetlana Vovchenko, Sergey Shnurov, Yuri Laguta, Konstantin Murzenko, Villagers of Shutilovo Themselves
Director: Ilya Khrzanovsky
Language: Russian (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 126 mins
USA Release Date: 7 April 2006 (Limited Release - New York)
UK Release Date: 23 September 2005 (Limited Release)
Three strangers meet in a late night Moscow bar and spin incredible stories about themselves - all of which turn out to be lies. Marina (Marina Vovchenko), a prostitute, claims to be an advertising executive. Volodya (Sergey Shnurov), a piano tuner, talks about his work on a top secret Russian project in cloning or doubling. Oleg (Yuri Laguta), a meat wholesaler, brags about his close ties to top Kremlin leaders. After this talk fest, the three depart and go their separate ways.
Marina goes home and finds out her sister has died. She decides to go the village where her sister lived and attend her funeral. The village is inhabited by old crones who earn a livelihood by making dolls out of bread they chew. The crones also consume vast amounts of moonshine and behave rather badly.
Volodya goes to a disco, wanders the streets of Moscow and gets picked up by the police as a crime suspect. He finds himself in prison, then forcibly conscripted and sent off to fight in an unspecified war.
Oleg visits his father, with whom he has a strange relationship. Oleg leads the bachelor's life and is a member of the new Russian middle class. He makes deals selling meat from a subterranean freezer facility. He is also perplexed about the prevalence of a new breed of round piglets.
The characters wander in a landscape that is desolate and scarred by heavy industry. Wild dogs roam everywhere, while the number 4 appears in many guises throughout the film and links the often disparate events.
Mass conformity, biological cloning and genetic manipulation represent the challenges to individual identity here, pushing humanity into the margins and distorting the world's recognisable form. The resultant pile-up of nightmares — poetic, grotesque, perplexing — may seem random but Sorokin and Khrznavosky impose order on the disorder with their forceful formal authority; it's quite clear that something is going on — that something is at stake — even if you don't have a clue what it is.
A completely unique and disturbing film, 4 was held up by Russian censors who wanted 40 minutes cut, but relented after the film won acclaim at film festivals around the world including winner of Best Feature, Rotterdam Film Festival and Best New Director, Seattle Film Festival.