Running Time: 130 minutes
Synopsis: In the capitol square of the Ukraine, we see both peaceful and not so peaceful protests against the current political system.
MAIDAN is a film focused on an important issue. It is a historical documentation of something that has happened very recently. So many documentaries end with audiences claiming “I never knew about that,” years after anything can be done. MAIDAN is of the moment, relevant, and could have gone a long way to opening the doors to those not so well informed. That would be if it wasn’t one of the most trying, boring, and least informative documentaries ever made.
In defense of Loznitsa’s film, it is clear that it wishes to capture these particular moments in time. In real time. It’s all about the build up and comparison. At what point do the angry and ignored decide to take things to the next level? When will those in power resort to harsher means of control? For all of this, we should have received a tense and brooding piece of incomparable dread. Instead we get an unedited, terribly paced, overly long film that fails to educate anybody about what is actually going on.
It’s nearly 30 minutes before a brief title card gives any background as to where we are or what is going on. In this time we have heard the Ukrainian national anthem twice, and spent a lot of time staring at a doorway and up a flight of stairs. People come through the door, and people walk up the stairs. What is this building? Why are these people here? What do the artistic pieces and posters on the wall say? What year is this? I couldn’t possibly tell you, as the film doesn’t either. Reminiscent of the wookie sequences from The Star Wars Holiday Special which included absolutely no subtitles, you best be well versed in recent Ukranian history. But even if you are, you’ll still be left staring at static shots for over two hours.
The worst part is, is that many of the shots do tell a brief story, or give a brief glimpse into something of interest, but quickly outstay their welcome. A powerful scene sees an impromptu performance of the national anthem, which quickly has many people of all ages joining in. Most of the time though, we’re merely stood still as people walk past and then look awkward as they notice the camera. Although it’s horrible to say, but once things do turn violent it’s actually a relief, because something is happening. If I’m not going to be taught what the issues are or how long things have been like this with enthusiasm and passion, then what am I doing here?
Editing could have gone a long way to saving this. Perhaps a bit of narration or talking heads to give some background, and maybe some music to bring up the pacing a bit. This is a film for those already in the know, or who were there for such events. Not only will the uninitiated not learn anything, but the film also fails to capture the atmosphere of the time and place. Worst of all though, if such topics ever come up again, I’ll have to fight away the memory of this film in order to stay focused, be interested, and learn something. This is the cinematic equivalent of an incredibly boring History teacher. What they’re saying and showing may be important, but their delivery is putting the class to sleep.
[usr=1]MAIDAN is out now.