• Visions Of Suffering



    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: 9/16/2006
    Director: Andrey Iskanov
    Cast: Aleksandr Shevchenko, Alexandra Batrumova, Victor Silken, Svyatoslav Iliyasov, Yukari Fujimoto
    Year: 2004

    The Movie:

    A nameless man (Aleksandr Shevchenko) suffers from a sleep disorder – whenever he does manage to nod off, his dreams quickly turn to nightmares of the most realistic kind, ensuring that his rest is poor and he’s starting to pay the price for it. As he starts to get desperate to find a cure, he talks to a woman he knows (Aleksandra Batrumova) who is a bit of a spiritualist.

    Later, when his phone breaks, he makes conversation with the repairman (Victor Silken) who tells him about a group of vampires who cause recurring nightmares for any mortal who becomes aware of their existence. To make matters worse, the vampire coven employs an assassin of sorts who they send to kill off any human who does learn of them, so that they can continue their actions undetected. The repairman leaves and the man’s girlfriend calls him from a nightclub at which point, fearing that she might be in danger, he asks her to leave not realizing that the vampires have now learned of her existence and her location.

    Complex to the point of being almost impenetrable at times, Visions Of Suffering is an extremely complex work of surrealism that goes back and forth between the character’s dreams and the character’s reality until the line is so blurry that you can’t tell one from the other. As such, it can be a hard film to follow if you’re not in the most attentive of moods and it’s certainly not going to be a film that is embraced by the masses anytime soon. Like Iskanov’s earlier experimental horror film, Nails, the movie succeeds more on visuals and atmosphere than on intricate plot details or strong characterizations.

    Handling the directing, cinematography and editing chores personally, Iskanov has obviously made a very personal film. Working with a reasonably modest cast and without the aid of studio backing he’s put every penny of his budget up on the screen to enjoy. The make up is quite impressive and the camera work and lighting are both very professional and go a long way towards giving the film its wholly unique look. While the battle between good and evil that the film portrays gets a little obtuse at times, the film always looks fantastic and even if what is happening isn’t always obvious, it is at least always interesting in the same way that Jodorowsky’s more unusual films tend to be. The movie alternates between scenes of hypnotic beauty and disturbing horror (without relying on excessive gore or jump scares) quite easily and the visuals reflect these tonal changes quite effectively. Iskanov (who has a small role in the film as a minister) also shows a keen eye for directing action scenes – those that take place in the nightclub show this well. This helps with the pacing during the middle part of the film (generally the slowest part of any movie) but also sets up the last act of the story quite well.

    An improvement over Nails (which was a strong debut) in pretty much every way possible, this lengthy but fascinating film shows that Iskanov is one to watch. In a world where cinema tends to repeat itself over and over again, Visions Of Suffering is a welcome breath of fresh air even if it is likely to alienate more viewers than it will attract.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Unearthed Films presents Visions Of Suffering in its original fullframe aspect ratio and for the most part things look pretty good on this DVD. The source material shows its limitations in that there’s some softness to certain scenes and some mild motion blurring here and there but for the most part we’re left with a pretty sharp and very colorful image that does a fine job bringing the material to life. The color reproduction in particular is quite nice, with the various hues used throughout the film rendered quite well on the DVD.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is in its native Russian language and comes complete with optional English subtitles. Channel separation is fairly strong and the audio is fine. There are a few spots where some distortion creeps into the mix but, as it was with Nails, it’s obvious as you watch the movie and encounter these scenes that this was done no purpose. Other than that, there is nothing to complain about here, the movie sounds quite good.

    The main supplement on this disc is a great fifty-three-minunte documentary on the making of the film entitled, aptly enough, The Making Of Visions Of Suffering. Iskanov appears here alongside actor Victor Silken and between the two of them we get a pretty good feel for what was involved with brining this project to life. Iskanov talks about various films that influenced him (some of the names he drops are surprisingly arthouse rather than horror related) as well as what he was after at certain points in the movie. Silken covers his work in front of the camera and talks about working with Iskanov on this project. Additionally we get some interesting behind the scenes footage, dialogue practice, and more footage of the cast and crew doing their thing. Parts of this are in Russian only but the interview segments all feature burned in English subtitles.

    A short film entitled The Raven (El Kuervo), directed by Nic Loretti, is also included here. While it shares some similarities to Poe’s classic story it changes things around quite a bit as it details a cellist’s descent into insanity when his practice time is interrupted time and time again. Shot on digital video, the short has been digitally manipulated in post-production to give it a worn film print look, and some sepia tone filters have been applied to large stretches of it. The death/grindcore soundtrack that is used in parts of the film is a little annoying, but otherwise this darkly comic six-minute short is pretty amusing.

    Rounding out the extra features are four still galleries (entitled Andrey Iskanov, Victor Silken, Production Art and Production Photos, the later of which is quite extensive and set to the film’s score) as well as trailers for the feature and for Iskanov’s Nails, which appears alongside other Unearthed releases such as Bone Sickness, Frankenhooker and Rock & Rule. Animated menus are included as are chapter stops for the main feature.

    The Final Word:

    At a hair over two hours in length, Visions Of Suffering might be a bit too much for some viewers but those with a taste for expressionism and surrealist filmmaking whose preferences sway towards the horrific and the macabre; the film has a lot to offer. It’s not an easy movie to wrap your head around, but it is a very well made picture with some memorable and frightening images and some completely unique set pieces.

    Want more info on this or other fine Unearthed Films DVDs? Hit up their official website here.