This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 12th June 2011
It may be a witty play on the title of the one-take cinematic masterpiece shot in the Hermitage, but Russian Snark is otherwise different in every way. The feature film debut from writer/director Stephen Sinclair is a touching, beautifully drawn Kiwi film about Russian immigrants in Auckland.
Misha (Stephen Papps) is a failing film-maker who shuns narrative in favour of enigmatic, monochromatic philosophising. It’s actually rather good – but it won’t make him a living. Wife and muse Nadia puts up with his career crisis until the burden of being sole bread-winner for their disintegrating partnership becomes too much.
A brave and utterly convincing performance from relative novice Elena Stejko is matched beautifully to the eccentric Misha. Despite the film’s gentle touch and relatively superficial treatment of potentially big issues, Papps’ portrayal induces our sympathy rather than mockery, and Stephanie Tauevihi ventures out of Shortland Street retirement to offer great support as Roseanna. The Kiwi characters are typically laid-back and subtly played against the Russians’ fire, and the resulting ensemble is pitch-perfect.
Russian Snark is a strange but delightful beast, well worth hunting.