“Target,” directed by Alexander Zeldovich, will be screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on March 1 at 3:00 pm.
A visually rich and intellectually rewarding cinematic experience, Alexander Zeldovich’s “Target” finds parallels between contemporary Russia’s bloating upper class and its monarchist past to suggest that history is repeating itself in strange and unexpected ways.
Reminiscent in plot and tone to Leo Tolstoy’s seminal novel “Anna Karenina,” the film depicts a small group of the country’s complacent gentry that finds what appears to be immortality in an abandoned astrophysics facility in what was once Soviet Central Asia. This plot device alone, with its implications of the rebirth of national culture and identity in the orphaned social and scientific experiments of Russia’s imperial legacy, could justify a film unto itself, but it functions here to introduce larger themes of social responsibility among the privileged classes, economic versus political enfranchisement, and way we make meaning in our lives from its disparate materials.
Co-written by Zeldovich and controversial novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Vladimir Sorokin, this is their second collaboration after Zeldovich’s preceding film “Moscow” (2000). Like Sorokin’s latest novel, which takes place in a dystopian near future where a Czar sits in the Kremlin, “Target” paints a convincing portrait of where Russian society is rapidly heading, namely East. Like their counterparts in the People’s Republic of China, Russia’s elite are amassing unprecedented amounts of wealth and cultural power while remaining neutered politically. The film’s male protagonists represent the tripartite nexus of the nation’s geopolitical might: the Karenin counterpart running the Ministry of Energy, the Levin-Oblonsky composite atop the world of media and entertainment, and the virile and callous Vronsky figure commanding a modern cavalry on an all-important superhighway connecting Asia and Europe.
Overseeing the transfer of goods and people across Eurasia, the latter controls what amounts to an economic fiefdom, the only competition being his less-organized but highly volatile Chinese counterparts. Meanwhile, his sometimes lover and wife of the Energy Minister has little beside her longing, while her brother, the media personality, seeks the recipe for political and social utopia on his wildly popular cooking show where politicians explain their policies through food. By taking the most salient aspects of modern Russia to their logical conclusions, Zeldovich and Sorokin create a world where eternity only serves to exacerbate the problems of the present.