To Moscow With Ikea
Germany 2001, 94 min.
It sounds promising: the story about the first Ikea store to open in Russia. What will the Russians think of Swedish design, flat-pack pine and multinational hard-sell? I’m afraid I can’t tell you, as Russians barely get a look-in in Chauvistré’s film, except as extras in the crowd scenes. An unbelievable 37,500 people turned up for the opening of the store (Muscovites are experts at queueing, thus natural Ikea shoppers), but somehow the lengthy wobble-cam footage fails to capture the drama of the day, much less the response of Moscow converts to the newly-arrived Church of Ikea.
Instead, the film is structured around a couple of Ikea employees from Berlin who are flown in to Moscow to help out with the launching of the new store. Sad to say, Ikea clones whose idea of a good time is sitting at home on their Ikea sofas in their Ikea sweatshirts singing the Ikea company anthem, whose one topic of conversation is – you guessed it – Ikea, simply don’t have the magnetism to sustain a ninety-minute doc. They bicker amusingly about which one of them should shake the hand of Ikea guru Ingrar Kamprad when he jets in from Sweden, but their relationship is ultimately too dull to sustain your interest. The character who drew most of my sympathy was their disgruntled 14-year-old son, moping around the Ikea bedroom in their Moscow flat, struggling to learn Russian and complaining of homesickness.
There are glimpses of a better, sharper film struggling to get out of this baggy ramble. For instance, the sequence of another German Ikea manager showing us round his Moscow flat. Heretically, his flat is an Ikea-free zone, featuring all the original 1940s Soviet fittings in dark wood panelling, down to a set of the complete works of Lenin and Stalin, and an intriguing ceiling mirror over the bed.
Chauvistré’s doc is perilously close to serving as a feature-length Ikea commercial. Opportunities are missed: the good stories seem to be out of stock. Like one of Ikea’s cheaper products, it looks nice in the catalogue, but when you get it home you find bits and pieces are missing and the flat-pack falls flat.