Monday, March 7, 2022

Park (1984)

Marat is a regular guy living a humdrum life, when one day he meets strange girl Vika. After helping her out of an unwanted arranged marriage, he lets her stay at his apartment, where she quickly becomes smitten with him, despite his efforts to shoo her out before the neighbours think poorly. Things soon take a turn for the dramatic with the arrival of Marat's childhood friend, and Vika may not be as nice as she seemed...

Park (translated extensively from Azeri, it means...Park) is a movie I went into expecting something very different to what I got. For some reason (probably the plot description and title) I imagined the movie as a lighthearted comedy romp, where a bunch of young friends in a park have comedic misadventures, and a love triangle, and everything is resolved nicely by the end. That couldn't be further from the truth. Park is actually a pretty downbeat drama, about a toxic relationship, and how crappy life can be.

Marat is a good lead. There's nothing unique about him, he's just your typical homegrown worker, doing the best he can. Vika starts off as an odd and somewhat quirky girl, and falls in love far to quickly, but her true colours soon show with her increased instability and mean streak.

Despite her temperamental nature and irrational outbursts of jealousy, Marat does soon fall for Vika too. This turns out to be a mistake. For all her bluster about committing suicide if he so much as looks at another woman, Vika doesn't think twice about ditching him for the first guy with a big house she sees, without so much as a goodbye.

Vika returns in the conclusion to speak with Marat, and acts all very sweet, while trying to lay down a guilt-trip on the guy, like trying to gaslight him. Luckily Marat sticks to his guns, and gets in some simple but effective comebacks. Probably the only honest thing Vika says during the scene is that she's not happy with her life, and we really get a sense of 'Well you made your bed, so you've gotta lie in it now'.

Park is kinda subversive, in that the big love interest doesn't end up being the one, and actually ends up being a villain in a way. And the estranged friend really is estranged for a reason, and Marat has every reason to be pissed off at the sucker. It's a slow progression, but you do come to realise that the guy was never really his friend. And when he saw an opening to steal Marat's chance, he jumped at it the first chance he got.

Something thing that confused me about the movie was its timeframe. How much time is supposed to have passed between then and now? We get a couple of possible indicators, which make sense in some ways, but then not others. Has Marat been moping for 10 years? I can't imagine it. I also wasn't sure if the romantic meeting at the end was a first reunion or if it's something that's been going on for a while now.

While Park may have its more downbeat moments, and is never really a happy film, the conclusion is a positive one, showing happiness in the present, and hope for the future. I'm sure those who prefer depressing Soviet endings with no hope will be able to spin things to say the film simply ends on the unattainable delusion of happiness in a world of sorrow, but for those who enjoy life, I think the ending's message is clear enough, without being overdone or saccharine.

While many foreign movies showcase their country well (or just the opposite), Park is a much more street-level centred movie. You won't get a grand picture of the entire country, but a smaller more personal feel. As for my impression based on this movie, it feels like Turkey and the Balkans mixed together. It has a communist bloc feel (yet not totally Russian, hence the previous comparison), with a Turk population/culture/language.

There's an understated score here The score here is understated, with a melancholic nature. There are also a few nifty rock'n'roll tracks, showing that the Azeris have good taste in music!

Park is a pretty interesting film. Nothing great, and you could easily manage without watching if it doesn't appeal to you, but it is a good showcase of Azerbaijan's cinema, albeit the more maudlin side...

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