“The story of five families of political prisoners across Russia through time” is how Olga Kravets’ directing debut It’s Getting Dark introduces itself. But, the film is really about absence. The title suggests completeness, but it is rather the lacking that the film addresses. It draws a line from the past to the present, which exactly conveys the feeling of absence.
Karik Krause’s parents Vera Berseneva and Friedrich Krause, in addition to Taisia Osipova, Ruslan Kutayev, Gennady Kravtsov and Svetlana Davydova are all Russian political prisoners or detainees; the first two of the 1950s USSR and the other three of 21st century Russia. Osipova is active in the opposition party Other Russia, as is her husband; Kutayev organised an ‘illegal’ conference on war deportations in Chechenya during the Sochi Olympics; Kravtsov applied for a job in Sweden; and Davydova phoned the Ukrainian Embassy. This is, apparently, all takes.
However, it is not their cases that the film explores or unravels. In fact, we are afforded very limited information about the cases, charges, or court sessions, although the film does catch some information through observed conversations of family members, and presents a few public responses in the press. Contact with foreign authorities and political opposition activities and involvement form some of the reasons for the arrests, though the (false) charges seem more often to involve drugs. The film focuses on the effects of the sentences and the detainment, on the consequences rather than the causes. And these consequences are the absences. Without comments or interviews, It’s Getting Dark shows us family lives interrupted. In the case of Davydova, for instance, we see how her husband trying to run the household while also defending his wife’s case via the phone to the media.
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