The Green Carriage (aka Зелёная карета) tells the story of Russian filmmaker Vadim Raevskii, played by an impressive Audrey Merzlikin. An arrogant Tarantino-inspired character at the peak of his influential career, Vadim finds himself the willing object of the public’s affection. Heads turn wherever he walks and adoring fans tussle for his attention. He enjoys the spoils and riches that come with his celebrity status, and to the detriment of his family, he spends most of his time away from home, often in the company of other women. While on location of his latest blockbuster, he receives phone calls from his teenage son, who presses upon the urgency of talking. Vadim dismisses the calls, unaware that his son is standing on the edge of a building.
The news of his son’s death shocks Vadim to his core and he finds himself on a grief- stricken pursuit for the truth. The police have posed three logical possibilities: suicide, murder or misadventure, and with drugs in the teen’s system all likeliness suggests the latter. With a twisted flurry of emotions driving his cause, he attempts to answer questions about his son’s death and, in turn, begins to reflect on his life and figure out where he disconnected from his former self.
The Green Carriage is a fascinating character study that adheres to a dramatic narrative while flirting with other genre conventions. As our protagonist moves through a series of events, the tone of the film teases the audience with an unfolding sense of dread, which has the film venturing into thriller territory, before snapping back to its dramatic core. This ongoing scrimmage of genres plays to the film’s strengths and provides a gripping showcase to Merzlikin’s notable dramatic range.
The film’s use of magic-realism is also fascinating. As Vadim’s story unfolds he is regularly thrust into the limelight of his own film. That is to say that his life blurs between reality and fantasy as the situations he is in are flipped around, and observed by his own film crew. His own image is often reflected as the director looking on with judgement, critical of the choices he’s made and the direction he’s taking. It is, suffice to say, a strange and intriguing perspective that is as compelling as it is perplexing.
To the film’s detriment, the fantasy concept is pushed further than it should be, and the final act suffers from a convenient – if not lazy – use of the motif. The metaphorical fantasy that worked brilliantly up until this point is abandoned for a contrived burst of sentimentality, lessening the overall impact of the film. It’s a shame when everything else fits together so nicely.
To my knowledge, Merzlikin is a household name in Russia and based on his performance in The Green Carriage I can only imagine that he is a respected actor. His turn as the selfish socialite-turned-grieving father is a consummate performance that offers emotional depth and multifaceted range. Director Oleg Assadulin (also an established name in Russia) also proves to be a crafty filmmaker with an ability to explore human drama amongst cleverly conceived fantasy. Without a doubt, I will be chasing down more of his work.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10
Screening at the 2016 Russian Resurrection Film Festival.