Ich-chi (2020)

Director: Kostas Marsan
Writer: Oleg Bogatov, Konstantin Danilov, Pavel Poluichik, Artem Zolotarev
Cast: Borislav Stepanov, Marina Vasilyeva, Ilya Yakovlev, Matrena Kornilova, Ilyana Pavlova, Dmitry Mikhailov, Sasha Andreev
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2020

Aysen (Borislav Stepanov) lives with his parents (Matrena Kornilova, Dmitry Mikhailov) on their remote farm in Yakutia. They live rather quiet lives, mostly busy with tending the lands. Aysen’s brother Timir (Ilya Yakovlev) on the other hand moved to the city and got married to Lisa (Marina Vasilyeva). When Timir, Lisa and their son Michil (Sasha Andreev) come to visit, things become tense. And once night breaks, everything becomes very strange.

Ich-chi is an interesting film that gave me a glimpse into a world I was barely aware of existing. Unfortunately, the last third got a little too confusing – and simply too dark. But it was unusual enough that it is definitely still worth seeing.

The film poster showing a Shaman with a drum, fire behind her.

Ich-chi starts really strong, setting up the family constellation quickly and very effectively. It feels like you don’t need much to understand where everyone is standing in the family, what their roles are. In addition to that family dynamic, the film manages to create a vaguely threatening atmosphere that becomes ever more explicit in its threat, and it does so with very little.

Unfortunately, in the last third, when shit really hits the fan, things stop working that well. While the film manages to maintain the atmosphere and awesomely captures the way things start to loop in on themselves and stop to make logical sense, the film suffers from the fact that the image is too dark (maybe it was a projection issue in the cinema?) and oftentimes I couldn’t even discern what was going on.

Aysen (Borislav Stepanov) standing in darkness, bathed in red light, his own distorted reflection next to him.

This was compounded by the fact that I am not familiar with the mythology (at least I think there is (local) mythology that went into the film), and things didn’t quite come together for me here – I felt like I was missing a bit of context to make sense of the film, or to understand it correctly. And that despite the fact that I’m very much aware that it is a film that is meant to confuse and that follows a dream logic for long stretches.

In the end, though, I didn’t mind my confusion that much because the film always remains interesting enough that I kept wanting to understand even when I didn’t. It never turned to annoyance on my part or made me give up on the film. Overall, I was quite taken by it.

Aysen (Borislav Stepanov) arguing with his brother Timir (Ilya Yakovlev).

Summarizing: absolutely engaging.

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