Country of the Deaf
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  • Country of the Deaf
  • 105 minutes  -  Crime
  • Original title: Страна глухих
  • Director:Valery Todorovsky
  • Language: Russian
  • Country: Russia

When her boyfriend gets into trouble with a local crime lord, Rita is forced to go into hiding and accidentally ends up staying with Yaya, an eccentric and hearing-impaired dancer.

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REVIEW BY Sebastian Gutnik Movie EXPERT
Review posted: 08/10/2013

Country of the Deaf by Valery Todorovsky tells the story of young Rita (Chulpan Khamatova, in her breakthrough role), as she tries to help her boyfriend pay off his debts to a prominent Moscow crime lord. When he gambles away the money they had set aside for the payoff, the couple is forced to split and temporarily go into hiding. By accident, Rita ends up bunking with charismatic dancer Yaya, who happens to be deaf.

Both form an intense friendship, as Rita gradually comes to realize that, beneath her extravagant mannerisms and dramatic displays of pride, Yaya is deeply wounded and even manipulative, as she is starved of attention and is willing to attain it at almost any cost. Yaya devises ways for Rita to make money and help her boyfriend, but only as a pretence to make her stay. The eccentric dancer acquaints Rita with The Pig, another crime lord who runs a gang made up exclusively of deaf people. He takes a liking to Rita and convinces her to help out in an important criminal meeting, posing as deaf and listening in on the rival gang’s true intentions. When Rita's boyfriend resurfaces, the two women find themselves locked-in between rival gangs and their own tumultuous friendship, while they’re also faced with the impending necessity of appeasing Rita's boyfriend's lender.

"Dina Korzun gives a brilliant, affected performance that may rank among the most memorable turns in film history."

The film was chosen as the Best Picture of 1998 by the Russian Film Critics Guild, and actress Dina Korzun, who portrays Yaya, gathered multiple awards for her performance. Though Rita is technically the film's protagonist, Yaya quickly becomes its true centerpiece. Her flamboyance and air of decadence are contagious, especially amidst the bleak Moscow environment the two women have to deal with. Dina Korzun gives a brilliant, affected performance that may rank among the most memorable turns in film history. The screenplay was written by Renata Litvinova, an actress and writer famous for the very same mannerisms she attributed to Yaya, and there is a certain feminist leitmotif that Litvinova highlights throughout the film, though never letting her ideology detract from or replace the compelling storyline.

Director Todorovsky was heavily inspired by French 80s cinema: the dynamic and decadent visuals recall the work of Luc Besson and Leos Carax, and evidence of this influence can be found in the cinematography, the locations, and the production design. Rita’s apartment includes a giant unfinished statue as a set piece, as well as a slowly spinning platform which makes for delicately shot dialogue scenes. This French influence can be felt in the very essence of the film, as it is an intoxicating blend of carefully observed outbreaks of emotion and relentless violence. French director Jean-Luc Godard once quipped that the only thing you need to make a movie is “a girl and a gun,” and this spirit is exemplified in Country of the Deaf.

The movie is heavy on sign language and on the mannerisms of the deaf-mute. It’s also filled with memorable quotes, among them The Pig’s laconic declaration: “Ненавижу уродов. Люблю красивое всё/Nenavizhu urodov. Lyublyu krasivoe vsyo" (Hate ugly things. Love everything pretty). Another, uttered by a gang leader during one of the most tense sequences, is a coded message to his goons: " Ждём самолёта/zhdyom samolyota" (We're waiting for the plane), as they plan to use the noise of the landing plane to start a shootout.

"The parable of the title serves as an unusually optimistic flicker of hope amid the bleak cinema of the violence-ridden 90's."

Yaya's whimsical and dreamy attitude towards life peaks when she tells Rita about her greatest dream: to move into the famous Country of the Deaf, which is populated by the deaf alone and where there is nothing but justice and harmony. She claims all she strives for is to save enough money to be able to afford a ticket. After the film’s heated and beautiful climax, the parable of the title serves as an unusually optimistic flicker of hope amid the bleak cinema of the violence-ridden 90's.