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Synecdoche, Kharkov
October 30, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

The Movie Set That Ate Itself. Five years ago, a relatively unknown (and unhinged) director began one of the wildest experiments in film history. Armed with total creative control, he invaded a Ukrainian city, marshaled a cast of thousands and thousands, and constructed a totalitarian society in which the cameras are always rolling and the actors never go home.
posted by mykescipark (53 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Trumanov Show
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:52 AM on October 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


Synecdoche, Ukraine?
posted by kenko at 11:54 AM on October 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Boobs.
posted by stevil at 11:54 AM on October 30, 2011


Damn I shouldn't read the post title, I guess.
posted by kenko at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


ick.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:58 AM on October 30, 2011


Damnit... this is like the third time in a month I've been too slow to post something. Ah well, I liked this paragraph especially:

Khrzhanovsky throws open the front door of one of the residential buildings, and here I gasp again. The guts of the set are as elaborate as the set itself. There are hallways that lead to apartments, and in the apartments there are kitchens, and in the iceboxes food, fresh and perfectly edible but with 1952 expiration dates. Again and again, Khrzhanovsky opens cupboards, drawers, closets, showing me matchboxes, candles, loofahs, books, salami, handkerchiefs, soap bars, cotton balls, condensed milk, pâté. He proudly flushes at least three toilets. "The toilet pipe is custom width," he says, "because it makes a difference in the volume and the tenor of the flushing sound." He looks completely, utterly delighted.
posted by codacorolla at 11:59 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is fucking scary.
posted by Evernix at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who the heck is funding it?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:11 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


another Gibson-day at the Metafilter..
posted by mumimor at 12:21 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


That story is too good to be true.
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this rings all sorts of alarm bells for me. It would cost tens of millions per year to keep that going. All on the basis of one previous film success, for what seems like it will be a niche film?

I can honestly say, though, that "he tapped epic amounts of ass" will not be in my biography.
posted by maxwelton at 12:27 PM on October 30, 2011


Who the heck is funding it?

Took a bit of digging, but I found this Variety blurb from a few years back indicating that underwriting is coming from both German and Russian state film funds.
posted by dhartung at 12:29 PM on October 30, 2011


According to Wikipedia, the budget is $10,000,000
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2011


Here are some of the photos of the photographer that the author finked out on.
posted by codacorolla at 12:31 PM on October 30, 2011


He could probably keep it going forever if he live streamed the whole thing and charged for access.
posted by empath at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


With that amount of hidden microphones and cameras, it's quite possible that many completely different films could be made from this project.
posted by motty at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, this forum post has some interesting information about Landau in general.

Here's the 2006 Cannes entry page for the film.
posted by codacorolla at 12:37 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming this is being funded by the FSB until proven otherwise (I know it's in the Ukraine). Possibly as an experiment in the best way to get people back into totalitarian conformity.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:45 PM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry if this is satire or something and I'm just not in on the joke, but is this real? It just seems too weird and expensive to be an actual thing.
posted by jcreigh at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2011


The tenor of the flushing sound? Are you kidding me?

These people are mad.
posted by mannequito at 1:13 PM on October 30, 2011


Man the director is going to be pissed when he finds out the entire "movie shoot" is the pretense for another director filming a story about a mad director who took over a town and decided to not tell him so his performance would be perfectly real.
posted by The Whelk at 1:24 PM on October 30, 2011 [41 favorites]


also, as someone who has sometimes dreamed of "living inside a movie" this....this was almost appealing.

Sometimes all of us—including Khrzhanovsky—crack up, and sometimes we don't; Olya holds the facade the best. When the vodka bottle is empty, Olya pulls me aside and shows me her room, with a lonely cactus and a nightgown thrown over the narrow bed just so. It's an intensely erotic and odd moment, this tiny pet showing off her cage. She asks me to write in her journal, and I scribble four rhyming lines in English. Pleased, she invites me to come back and see her tomorrow. Alone. This is a setup, the crudest and most obvious setup of all. And against all reason—there is a microphone in the ceiling, for fuck's sake—I consider it. For a second. The cello blares from the outside.

"Doesn't it drive you mad? This constant music?"

"No, I like it. Sometimes I even sleep with windows open."

Of course you do.

posted by The Whelk at 1:26 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no desire to see the actual film but I'd love to see the documentary on the making of it.
posted by cazoo at 1:41 PM on October 30, 2011


Didn't Werner Herzog do something similar with Heart of Glass, where he personally hypnotized most of his cat to get them to perform in a hypnotic state?
posted by jonp72 at 1:47 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


jonp72: ...he personally hypnotized most of his cat ...

That sounds like quite an interesting tail.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


Aren't cats naturally hypnotized? Or at least, generally in some kind of hypnotic state?
posted by kaibutsu at 1:55 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I would much prefer to see Herzog hypnotize only part of his cat. As long as the cat was, you know, intact.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:59 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Herzog's cat actually exists in simultaneous states of hypnosis and non-hypnosis
posted by scrowdid at 2:17 PM on October 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


"hypnotized most of his cat to get them "

Ok, it's either "most of his CATS to get them to perform", or "most of his cat to get it/him/her to perform", which is it...
posted by HuronBob at 2:17 PM on October 30, 2011


Here's a link to what looks like the set on Google maps.
posted by knapah at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Russia, April fools you.
posted by chavenet at 2:52 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Russia, April fools you.

I'm possibly being gullible, but it is at the very least a very expensive movie with a very involved set. I don't know how much else is accurate about it, but there's at least an element of reality to it.
posted by codacorolla at 2:55 PM on October 30, 2011


The tenor of the flushing sound? Are you kidding me?

Aren't most sound effects added in post anyway?
posted by empath at 3:40 PM on October 30, 2011


Fitzcarraldisteryical.
posted by localroger at 3:56 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I am honoured to meet you all," said Jherek, with something of Lord Jagged's grace. "But perhaps you could tell me what you are doing underground?"
"We're hiding!" whispered Molly Madcap. "Our parents sent us here to escape the movie."
"The movie?"
"Pecking Pa the Eighth's The Great Massacre of the First-Born — that's the working title, anyway," Ben Bold told him.
"It's a remake about the birth of Christ," said Flora Friendly. "Pecking Pa is going to play Herod himself."
This name alone meant something to Jherek. He knew that he had met a time traveller once who had fled from this same Pecking Pa, the Last of the Tyrant Producers, when he had been in the process of making another drama about the eruption of Krakatoa.


Micheal Moorcock, The Hollow Lands
posted by 445supermag at 4:08 PM on October 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I look forward to a future where the most influential religions were spawned by sci-fi authors on a lark and the superpowers were art projects run amok.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:16 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The tenor of the flushing sound? Are you kidding me?

These people are mad.


I love how, out of this entire scenario, that is what tipped you off.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:19 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


When the cleaning lady had to mop the same toilet floor every day for two years, she will do it differently when she's doing it on-camera."

I suggest that when you mop the floor every day for 2 years, you are not a movie extra, you are a cleaning lady.

Another employee reported that I showed little interest in mood boards—one of which catalogs hundreds of Soviet manhole covers. Khrzhanovsky, taking visible pleasure in the situation, casually lets me know that he has been duly alerted. "You must be interested in the same things everyone else is," he says derisively. "How much money I have spent, and when will I be done."

He sounds like a egomaniacal, power-mad control freak who sexually harasses his female employees until they either sleep with him or get fired. He would have fit right in in the 1950's Hollywood.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is like what businesses do to graphic designers except it's a movie director doing it to actors: "We can't pay you, but think of the EXPOSURE!"
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:03 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


4 is a really awesome movie, for what it's worth.

Also, this is insane and awesome and awful.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:28 PM on October 30, 2011


He could probably keep it going forever if he live streamed the whole thing and charged for access.
- empath


He should also release the archived raw footage.

The film that will someday emerge from this footage can be anything—a great historical epic or a tedious tone poem—or nothing at all.

Because the amount of material is so immense, different directors would be able to create vastly different films. Unlike regular shooting, where the budget requires a limited amount of shooting, and the structures of that movie dictate which shots are taken.

This is unstructured, anarchic film-making, part fiction, part non-fiction. People are in a movie, and they're conscious of what's going on, so something is different than reality, but they're immersed to such a level that the subconscious force of that has surely diminshed. God, People are having kids in the town, and are thinking in terms of 'moving to Kharkov'.


Life on the project has a way of sucking people in. Since 2008, more than a few crew members stopped pretending this was a temporary gig and have moved to Kharkov. Most are fresh out of film school, but several have left behind serious careers. Some moved their families to Kharkov. Others started new families right here. Anton, a sad-eyed, bearded young man who minds the project's database of extras, has spent two and a half years on the project. His wife, whom he met here, had given birth two weeks before I arrived.

...When I meet her, Sveta has just returned from a ten-day trip to Warsaw—the longest she's been away from the set since moving here. "I had to go see my parents," Sveta says, sounding irked. "It is sooo good to be back."



I would also be interested in having different towns set up and funded, where the entire city is filmed. Each town would have a different ideology - Kharkov has a totalitarian society, I want to see one with Anarchic Socialism, and Total Laizze-Fair Capitalism, and Factory Union Towns owned by the workers. I want to see specific examinations of microcosms of different human societies that can be turned into an examination of humanity by anyone with a perspective and an editing program.

Final thought: It reminds me of my TOTALLY REASONABLE favorite Utopian fantasy.

Okay, so regulatory capture and proper policing is a hell of a problem. People are bad at not being corrupt. Create an almost priest-like class of people who's lives are monitored at all times. They have made the conscious decision to shed their own privacy, and choose to live their lives open to the public. Anyway, they would be unable to conspire or collude against the public - unable to .

I'm not sure how other people's consent would work out. Maybe the person would wear robes to indicate his identity? The footage might be released later, if things were time sensitive. Maybe an independent jury could strike footage from the record, if it infringed upon someone's rights.

I told this to a friend, and he said, 'well, why don't you do it?'
I said, 'I'm no priest.'
posted by justalisteningman at 5:33 PM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Okay, so regulatory capture and proper policing is a hell of a problem. People are bad at not being corrupt. Create an almost priest-like class of people who's lives are monitored at all times. They have made the conscious decision to shed their own privacy, and choose to live their lives open to the public. Anyway, they would be unable to conspire or collude against the public - unable to .

Call it the pan opt-in con
posted by codacorolla at 5:36 PM on October 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


"The toilet pipe is custom width," he says, "because it makes a difference in the volume and the tenor of the flushing sound." He looks completely, utterly delighted.

This sounded totally acceptable and even morally praiseworthy to me, having just finished Steve Jobs' biography an hour ago. I guess not all reality distortion fields have their origin in Cupertino.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 8:28 PM on October 30, 2011


And people wonder why I find this part of the world so fascinating.
posted by SMPA at 8:30 PM on October 30, 2011


Kharkov has a totalitarian society, I want to see one with Anarchic Socialism, and Total Laizze-Fair Capitalism, and Factory Union Towns owned by the workers

Maybe the Phyles of the Diamond Age start off age reality shows......
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Google" is now "Pravda," as in "Pravda it."

Which is what I will call it from now on.
posted by telstar at 9:48 PM on October 30, 2011


needs an NSFW tag! mods!
posted by victory_laser at 1:35 AM on October 31, 2011


It's time to go home, Eddie.
posted by valkyryn at 5:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't Werner Herzog do something similar with Heart of Glass, where he personally hypnotized most of his cat to get them to perform in a hypnotic state?

Gah. I meant cast.
posted by jonp72 at 7:16 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


damn, and I was hoping for a followup post on partial cat hypnosis...
posted by Vetinari at 9:58 AM on October 31, 2011


For some reason, I stopped caring right after he listed a community of 1.4 million people as a "town".
posted by parliboy at 10:17 AM on October 31, 2011


I'm still hoping someone will chime in here with more information. Restricting searches to before this article appeared, I can find mention of this film's existence (of course), but nothing even hinting at the immersive, sustained city-building this article suggests. Part of me wonders if the director and crew might have pulled a 3-day trick on this visiting American(?) reporter.

(I'm not certain how thoroughly Google is diving into Russian results. Some show up, but not nearly as many, percentage-wise, as I'd expect. Maybe a Russian speaker could search on google.ru?)

Another thing to note is that when the article mentions footage he's been allowed to see, it sounds like it resembles standard shot scenes. Also of note: the article mentions microphones have been embedded throughout the set, but does not say the same about cameras. Even if the sustained city-building is real, I don't think this is being shot like a Big Brother style documentary. It sounds, rather, that everything described is to be backdrop for a single-character driven story (the genius scientist). I suspect they shot no footage whatsoever while the reporter was present?
posted by nobody at 12:34 PM on October 31, 2011


Gah. I meant cast.

Don't worry. It's Herzog. It made perfect sense.

parliboy,
town, n.
a : a compactly settled area as distinguished from surrounding rural territory
b : a compactly settled area usually larger than a village but smaller than a city
c : a large densely populated urban area : city
d : an English village having a periodic fair or market

And Chicago was 2.7M in 1920. In context, the term is often affectionate.
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on October 31, 2011


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