They are the starting point of a journey from the Urengoy Gas Fields in the Northern West Siberian Basin, the second largest natural gas field in the world, to Cologne in Germany. The crosses, which return at the end of the journey, symbolize the new religion: gas, or more aptly, money, illustrated by the quote that precedes the images: “50% of Russia’s budget comes from the oil and gas industry – V. Putin”. Pipeline, Vitaly Mansky’s film, and winner of this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s documentary competition, follows – it is asserted – the route of a gas pipeline. We are presented with scenes from life in various places supposedly situated along the route. The scenes are interspersed every now and then with a bright image of shiny blue and yellow pipes with red arrows, wheels and meters. They must represent the gas works, the underground, the wealth. Above, in the east, everything is grey, when it isn’t white with snow.
The further west we travel, the more colour in the images, and in the lives represented.
Usually it doesn’t make sense to talk about what is not in a film, but in this case, it does. A quote from the Odessa Film Festival: “While working on his film Mansky set himself the main task – to avoid political situations and to minimize the details of the devastation while depicting living conditions in out-of-the-way places.” 1) www.oiff.com.ua/en/2013/news/truba-vitalija-manskogo-na-odesskom-kinofestivale.htm But how can a film about a Siberia-Europe gas pipeline route not be political? Firstly, the pipeline was built during the Cold War by Russia and Western Europe; secondly, the revenue goes not to the people who live on the trajectory but to political oligarchs in the Kremlin; and thirdly, an experienced urban filmmaker depicts urban locals. Such a film is bound to be political: firstly on an international level, secondly on an economical level and thirdly on an aesthetic level.
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