Student


Dir/scr: Darezhan Omirbayev. Kazakhstan. 2012. 90mins

With his new film Student, Kazakh director Darezhan Omirbayev puts to rest any notion among the world's intellectuals and literary folk that adaptations of Dostoievski's great Crime and Punishment have been exhausted. Not only is his aesthetic singular--lean, pared down to nicely textured basics, excision of extraneous images and sounds--but the overall social, political, and geographical context is so unique that it affords him the opportunity to spin the entire narrative in an uncharted direction. The use of gorgeous spare wrapping for complex ideas is an inspired choice that keeps the entire project both accessible and stimulating.

Omirbayev has succeeded in taking an alienated young man and developing his character with often mundane details of daily life.

Omirbayev has been making features for more than 20 years, but this ex-mathematician and film theorist has not had an easy time of getting the exposure he deserves. The Kazakh film industry can hardly maintain itself domestically much less promote products on the international stage. Good festivals have long taken notice of his talent, but finding distribution is the Sisyphean challenge.

Given the recognition that the source novel has all over, and the deceptive simplicity of this adaptation, now is possibly a good time for producers and distributors to begin a small Omirbayev bandwagon that would highlight his gifts and potential. He could be one of the greats if given half a chance. Otherwise markets will be limited to his native country and neighboring Russia, where support exists for his efforts. In fact, Student is shot in Russian, which points to how limited the domestic audience is.

This version takes place during the current era of transition from traditional values and a socialist economy to a rapid, undigested capitalist model. The same types of hustling oligarchs willing to step on all others in their pursuit of money that has been endemic in Russia operates in Kazakhstan as well. A rupture plagues the society, and here the unremarkable student around whom the story pivots serves as the conduit for the multiple contradictions. He commits the famous murders charted in the novel, but he is not sure why.

Because he a broke philosophy student enraged by the state of things? Or because he and another student are attempting to apply the self-deluding values espoused in the novel. …

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