Contemporary World Cinema
Director Natalia Meshchaninova’s latest Russian-language drama is a complex, nuanced character study well worth your time. All characters in Core of the World (with the exception of one) are flawed and alternate between moments of kindheartedness to streaks of cruelty, seemingly with a flip of a coin. That’s not to say that the characters behave unpredictably–rather, a wide assortment of causes are set out for your consideration.
Egor, played masterfully by Stepan Devonin, is a quiet loner tending after Nikolai’s farm and animals. Within minutes of the film beginning, Egor is attempting to save a dog that has been viciously mauled and now is paralyzed. Nikolai is quick to assert that the dog should be put out of its misery. While the graphic nature of Egor’s budding veterinarian practice may be a bit off-putting for some, Egor’s companionship with his animals – especially one in particular – is heartwarming.
Nikolai has a daughter named Dasha, and for the length of the film, I was attempting to determine Dasha’s relationship to Egor. Siblings? Girlfriend/boyfriend? Husband/wife? This relationship is sometimes not clear, which is the point, as it reflects the feelings the characters have for each other – which may as well verge on apathy and dislike depending on the situation. Dasha has a son (who calls Egor by his name, not “daddy,” mind you), and their bond is almost sibling-like, including the moments when Dasha slaps and punches her son. Egor watches from a distance, knowing that his own relationship with his mother is problematic, to say the least.
In short, this is a film about people living and working on a farm, who face conflicts both internal and external. The film provides an opportunity for a glimpse into a social order many of us would not have opportunity to otherwise learn about. The film stays away from melodrama and keeps the acting down-to-earth and sympathetic, even when the characters do things we may not like. Core of the World subtly approximates the human condition and should inspire conversation about how we treat those we love.