Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|House of Fools|
Actors: Yuliya Vysotskaya, Sultan Islamov, Bryan Adams, Yevgeni Mironov, Stanislav Varkki
Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Sports, Military & War
It takes place during the Russian-Chechen war, but House of Fools has the aura of the 1960s about it, specifically the anti-war picture of the King of Hearts variety. Set in a mental hospital near the front lines, the movi... more »
Similarly Requested DVDs
An exquisite, hauntingly beautiful Russian masterpiece
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 03/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I come to this review with as much humility as I can muster, knowing that I cannot possibly - no matter how many fantastic things I say about this Russian movie - truly do it justice. House of Fools is a flat-out masterpiece, in my opinion. Some critics express dissatisfaction with the film, and I believe their dissatisfaction stems from a desire, be it conscious or unconscious, to make this film "say" what they want or expect it to say. Thus, some criticize the movie for a failure to truly examine or perfectly satirize a problematic war; some say the film is too disjointed to adequately express any kind of serious message; some seem disappointed this isn't some sort of reborn King of Hearts; others call it pretentious and over-done. I personally carried very little baggage with me into this film, which allowed me to let the film communicate whatever it wanted to communicate to me. Certainly, warfare is central to the story and there are scenes that wonderfully depict the horror and inanity of war, but House of Fools is so much more than an anti-war movie. This is a story about nothing less than the heart of humanity itself, and I believe multiple viewings would impart an almost limitless number of emotional epiphanies for the serious viewer. The background for this powerful motion picture is the war in Chechnya in 1996. We meet the residents of a Chechen psychiatric hospital (oblivious to the war being waged outside their protected walls) just before their ordered, insulated lives change forever, and each of the many characters touches your heart in some way. Of course, none grab the viewer's attention as forcefully as Janna (Julia Vysotsky). Janna can at times seem quite sane, and the care and love she has for those around her can easily be seen in everything she does. She is always quick to help out, shares a strong bond with even the most uncommunicative of patients, and in no small way holds the group together with her beautiful attitude, ethereal charm, and spirited accordion-playing. When conflict or trouble rears its head, she reaches for her accordion, and we are provided a glimpse into her own momentary vision of everyone enjoying themselves as she plays; of course, reality intervenes all too quickly, but her kind-hearted efforts normally do help ease the tension. Janna is clearly delusional, though; she has a veritable shrine to singer Bryan Adams in her room and believes she is his fiancée. Clearly, I wasn't expecting Bryan Adams cameos in a Russian film, but these segments of the film are masterfully done.One night, the splendidly-lit train that the patients all love to watch does not come, and the next morning the hospital staff is gone. The institution quickly becomes a radically different place, and the patients have little choice but to stay there when war finally knocks on the door in the most unmistakable of ways. Chechen forces eventually take over the hospital, treating the patients in quite a humane manner. One of these soldiers jokingly asks Janna to marry him after she plays and dances for the men, not realizing that Janna would take his offer seriously. We watch her undergo the agony of saying goodbye to her friends even as they transform her through clothes and makeup into a strikingly beguiling young woman. From here on out, the movie really pulls on the old heart-strings. Janna is as endearing a character as I have come across in a long, long time. While her troubled state of mind continues to reveal itself more and more emotionally, we can do nothing but helplessly watch her endure heartache, pain, and numb terror in the face of spiritual as well as military warfare. This was Julia Vysotsky's first starring role, and I personally would give her any best actress award she asked for. Some critics feel as if she did not truly blossom into the role or succeed in giving it the depth it required; these are obviously some of the most demanding people on the planet, as I don't think any actress could have given a better performance than Vysotsky delivered in this film. House of Fools did win some prestigious awards, and rightly so. At the Venice Film Festival, it took home the jury grand prize. It was also Russia's official submission for consideration by the Academy Awards in the Foreign Language category, but the Academy did not nominate it for the award (proving once again how capricious and questionable Academy Award nominations can be). I don't know if this was the best foreign language film of the year or not, but I can't possibly understand how House of Fools did not merit nomination. Just as I suspected, I have not been able to communicate at all satisfactorily my sense of the power, exquisite beauty, and poignant grace of this film. A number of scenes remain vivid in my mind: for example, the meeting of opposing Russian and Chechen leaders in which the two discover a strong bond from the past, as well as the scene in which Janna states that we are all alive because someone somewhere is praying for us. As far as I am concerned, writer and director Andrei Konchalovsky - a name already familiar to Western audiences - is a cinematic genius, Julia Vysotsky is one of the most impressive young actresses in the world today, and House of Fools is a film that all who love movies and hold them up to the highest of standards should see and experience."
Very unique film
J. Jacobs | 07/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"House of Fools provides a very unique perspective of life in a corner of Russia - in a psychiatric hospital on the Chechen border. Based on a true story, the hospital inmates are surprised by reality when war reaches their doorstep and the nurses and doctor abandon the facility.
The lead character, Janna, is convinced she is engaged to singer Bryan Adams. His frequent appearances in her fantasies, singing If You Love a Woman, provide comedic interludes among the serious topics of psychosis and war. As the Chechens use the hospital facilities as a base, we see their interactions with the patients and watch Janna fall in love with a Chechen fighter.
While the film portrays the Chechens rather sympathetically, its larger message transcends ethnic groups or military factions, questioning the boundaries between sanity and insanity, especially in times of war.
A unique film combining comedy, realism and fantasy, this Russian film is a classic."
Daryl Frasch | Hooksett, NH USA | 05/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"what can i say? this is one of the most odd and amazing and beautiful and gorgeous movies i have ever seen!! With its beauty and literal insanity all rolled into a Russian film, you will find yourself moving from emotion to emotion. Try to catch it on tv (as i have done) and wait to buy it later because, honestly, $73.00?? that;s a little much. but you definitely need to see this Russian treasure!"
J. Ticknor | South Carolina | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my first review on Amazon after years of using it, because I just watched this movie, and was blown away by the visuals. I'm no big foreign film fan, I'm really not much of a film fan period, I bought this DVD because I'm learning Russian, and wanted some movies to watch as aids. This movie blew me away. There is a scene, where a helicopter crashes behind Janna while she plays the accordian that I could never in a million years forget."