Nomery [Numbers] (2020)

Director: Oleg Sentsov, Akhtem Seitablaev
Writer: Oleg Sentsov
Cast: Viktor Andrienko, Oleksandr Yarema, Irina Mak, Viktor Zhdanov, Lorena Kolibabchuk, Denis Rodnyanskiy, Olena Uzlyuk, Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Aleksandr Begma, Mariya Smolyakova, Maksym Devizorov, Evgeniy Lebedin, Oleg Karpenko, Laptii Oleksandr
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 25.10.2020

In a dystopian world, the Numbers from One to Ten (Oleksandr Yarema, Irina Mak, Viktor Zhdanov, Lorena Kolibabchuk, Denis Rodnyanskiy, Olena Uzlyuk, Evhen Chernykov, Agatha Larionova, Aleksandr Begma, Mariya Smolyakova) go about their daily tasks, overseen by Zero (Viktor Andrienko). Things should be settled, but illegally, Seven and Four have an affair and the ensuing child – Eleven (Evgeniy Lebedin) – brings even more disorder.

Nomery has an interesting origin story and a nicely absurd sense of humor. Unfortunately, I was a little too tired and kept nodding off, so I missed chunks of it. But the parts I saw, I very much liked.

The film poster showing the 10 Numbers in a V formation.

Nomery is the movie adaptation of a play Sentsov wrote a few years ago, and the interesting part here is that he was in the gulag for his political activism when he made the film, so he directed it through the letters he sent to Akhtem Seitablaev. This is interesting on a technical level (how can you direct something when you can’t see it?) and speaks volumes on a political level. Given that the film is a political allegory, it seems unavoidable to draw parallels there.

The film is stylistically very interesting. In many ways you can see that it originated as a play – the limited space, the way Zero oversees the other Numbers (like a director himself), the minimalist costumes. It is certainly unusual to see a movie look that way (though I assume that it helped with directing from afar). The setting certainly adds to the absurdity of the entire film.

The Numbers getting ready for a competitive run.

Though it would have been plenty absurd with extensive sets. The way the Numbers live is overregulated to say the least, and the tasks they perform seem to exist just to keep them busy (one does wonder who profits from this arrangement, I have to say. My general impression is that somebody somewhere always profits – and Zero doesn’t seem to get much out of it). I fell mostly asleep during those tasks, though, so I can’t speak too much about them.

The ending does carry quite a punch – revolutionary turned overlord himself, the Numbers seem to exchange one hell from another. Whether that is supposed to mean that revolution doesn’t pay or that the revolution wasn’t revolutionary enough or that power corrupts everyone, even those fighting against power at first, I couldn’t say. But it certainly gives the film an entirely new direction at the very end that had me thinking.

The Numbers queuing.

Summarizing: strange and interesting.

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