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Yury Bykov • Director

"Durak (The Fool) is not the full picture of Russia, even though it is most of it"


- Cineuropa speaks to Russian director Yury Bykov, whose works are always characterized by a criticism of his country’s society

Yury Bykov  • Director

The whale skeleton that represents the soul of Russia in Leviathan [+see also:
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, by Andrey Zvyagintsev, has become very popuar in recent months. Following the warm welcome received last year by the thriller The Mayor during Critics’ Week in Cannes, his countryman Yury Bykov highlights the cracks that generate a corrupt system with Durak (The Fool) [+see also:
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interview: Yury Bykov
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. This movie is in the running for the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. It depicts a poisoned political class facing an imminent crisis: a building housing over 800 people in poor living conditions is about to collapse in the middle of the night. A plumber alerts the authorities in the hope of avoiding disaster. 

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Cineuropa: Are you trying to represent a metaphor for Russian society in Durak (The Fool)?
Yury Bykov: My intention is to show a model of society that is very common in the region in which I was born [Penza, in central Russia]. I grew up in an environment very similar to the one that appears in the movie and so I wanted to create the most accurate portrait possible of what I experienced. I illustrate a wealth of experience that I’ve acquired throughout my life and that I free through this story. But Russia is a very big country and I’m inclined to believe that Durak is not the full picture, even though it is most of it. Rather than denouncing the evident social disparities I sought to show how the conflict of interests portrayed in the movie develops.

In other words the story you want to tell could take place in many other countries...
It’s a story that I believe could happen in any region of the world in which people experience social tensions, obviously by adapting it to each country’s particular reality. Many places could easily have been the setting for this story. Whether they be developping regions in Latinamerica or Africa and, in another context, in a large part of China and even the US.

You claim that you don’t feel close to modern-day Russian directors but that you do feel close to those of the past. Why?
Because for me the most important thing is being understood and moving the viewer. Many of the current Russian directors are more focused on creating their own cinematograhpic language, on creating a particular ambiance. For me those things are formalities, elements that more related to technology than to emotions. My ambitions as an artist involve connecting with people. In that sense my references include social cinema of the 70s, Sydney Lumet and his Dog Day Afternoon (1975) or Francis Ford Coppola, and Russian cinema of the same era. 

In the latest edition of the Moscow Film Festival very few international artists were present as guests, unlike in previous years. Some of the local press link this to a rejection of the conflict with Ukraine.
It’s certainly true that people are blaming the conflict. Personally I believe that a film festival and politics should be two different and separate things. And one shouldn’t have to foot the bill because of the other. As artists we should focus on speaking through our work about mankind and its problems, about our different beliefs and how to reach an understanding, that would solve the problems that those beliefs create among people.

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(Translated from Spanish)

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