"The Fly": To Grow Up as an Adult

in 10th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Oliver Rahayel

Family relations dominated all the films in the competition of the Lecce Festival. Whereas almost every one of the ten selected films treated its subject with deep seriousness, depressing pictures and a tendency to hopelessness, the Russian film The Fly (Mukha) handled its story with lightness and traces of humor. This, of course, was not the only quality of Vladimir Kott’s film. It also showed a deep knowledge both of human behavior and of the adequate means of cinema.

The hero of The Fly is a trucker in his thirties who is surprisingly arrested by the local police of a small village somewhere in Russia. He learns that he has a daughter carrying the same surname as himself, obviously the result of one of the numerous affairs he had on his travels through the country. The problem is that the teenager has set the house on fire of the village’s richest man, and as she has not yet reached the age of criminal responsibility, Fedor, the hero, has to pay her debt. While the rich man also threatens his health, Fedor becomes a vivid part of the village’s life, starts an affair with a teacher and becomes one himself. On the other side, Vera, the daughter, has her own problems with her classmates and prefers to live alone in her poor wooden cabin rather than with her alien father.

What makes the main character (and the whole film) so attractive is his permanent optimism, which infects more and more of the village’s inhabitants — aside from Vera. He takes life as it comes, with all its challenges, which he faces without ever complaining. Women love him for that, the pupils too, men cannot be angry with him, aside from the millionaire. Showing these qualities, he seems to arise from one of those 19th century novels, preceded, for example, by the 17th century’s “Simplicissimus”, in which the young, naive and innocent hero goes out and discovers the world for the first time, coming back as an adult. The only difference here is that Fedor is an adult already, someone who just never wanted to take over any responsibility — until he finds out about little Vera.

Apropos Little Vera, The Fly does not have anything to do with that kind of post-Soviet cinema of the 1990’s, in which the brutal circumstances of rising capitalism was shown in an equivalently brutal way. Only the cruel millionaire seems to mirror that part of reality. Although set in a rather poor surrounding, Vladimir Kott doesn’t explore or even exploit its misery. He considers it but, instead, focuses on its impact on the local characters, like Fedor’s mistress, who works both as a teacher and as a waitress to pay her rent, and who desperately seeks a “real man”. Or like the woman at the post office, who even more desperately waits for her son to write to her, who serves as a soldier in the Caucasus war — which means Chechnya, of course. Kott’s special interest also goes for the teenagers at school. The boys regularly meet those from another local school for a punch-up, while the girls cheer for them. There is the strong boxer, who is in love with Vera who also boxes, and there is the weak coward who loves her too. On the surface, this seems to be a conventional teenage love story, but it is shown in strong and touching pictures and with impressive actors.