I don’t think you even need to like this movie in order to feel goosebumps crawling up your arms as you watch this one. If you can’t read the Russian subtitles and don’t understand Chechen, the kid expresses admiration for the knife, and the man gives it to him. After the dance, the kid’s wary father calls him home. The kid says that he’s sorry, he’s being called to do homework. The man answers with a pretty terrifying and accurate line,
“Don’t worry, boy, there will be enough of this war left over for you too.”
These are Chechen fighters, in a movie made in a post-Beslan world. And the beauty portrayed here cuts through all that. I never expected a conservative Russian filmmaker such as Nikita Mikhalkov to shoot a scene that can humanize and illuminate and goddamn it, hotify (from the word “hot” – the word “beautify” will not do) this particular group of people in a way that no amount of political debate can match. This scene is not didactic. Instead of being buggered by an agenda, you are enveloped in the intimacy of a childhood memory that stands apart from rhetoric. It’s a Lolita moment, in the sense of a work of art twinkling like a star through the fog of social commentary that immediately gets heaped upon it due to its very nature. You respond to it as an individual.
A (cranky) fellow writer recently told me, “how racist! What ‘ethnic’ people just randomly break out into dance? What kind of BS…” I had to interrupt him there, because I do actually randomly break out into dance. I’ve done it on sidewalks while waiting for a bus with my cousin, and on Independence Square with my uncle’s drunk brother, and countless other times, which I won’t mention, because I blog under my real name.
I can’t do the lezginka, but I sure as hell can shake my bum or wave my scarf when I get in the mood, which is often. When I do it, it’s not an artform, and it won’t give you goosebumps (in fact, it will probably just make you raise your eyebrow like that mustachioed guy in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and say “I weep for the future”), but if the above scene is racist, then so is my life. You know being an “ethnic” person in someone else’s eyes, and all.
Leaving me aside, it’s not at all abnormal for groups of people to break out in traditional dance. I’ve seen it happen in Brooklyn, Montmartre, and the legendary Borshagovka. They don’t always do it as beautifully as above, but they do it nonetheless.
I’d like to have a world with more dancing. The more people dance, the less time they have to kill each other.