The Fool

The Fool ★★★½


What I wrote about Bykov's previous film, The Major, applies equally here:

One of the most deeply cynical movies I've ever seen, the moral of which is essentially that every effort to do the right thing not only fails but makes things much worse. [...] I watch plenty of depressing films, but it's rare for one to inspire this degree of sheer hopelessness.

Not sure why I slightly prefer The Fool, because it's considerably more didactic, stopping cold at least three times for extended monologues detailing the city's precise chain of corruption. Maybe it's just the catharsis of a protagonist who stubbornly refuses to prioritize self-interest at the expense of other people's lives. In both films, though, Bykov takes care to avoid facile villainy, depicting horrible acts as the inevitable result of numerous small moral failures, made by people who aren't inherently evil but have dug themselves holes they can't see any other way out of. Especially loved Natalya Surkova as the mayor, who keeps trying to be human until she finally concludes that doing so would entail signing her own death warrant; rarely does one see an actor explore so many levels of weary resignation.

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