Film review: ‘Generation P’ offers strange Perestroika trip

December 7, 2012

Generation P - poster artDirector Victor Ginzburg‘s feature film debut, a film adaptation of one of Russia’s modern literary masterpieces, Generation P by Victor Pelevin, arrives in South Florida this weekend for an exclusive theatrical run. It opens exclusively in the City of Aventura, and fittingly in one of South Florida’s apexes of consumerism, the Aventura Mall (once made famous by a spending spree by Michael Jackson).

The film follows Babylen Tatarsky (Vladimir Epifantsev) a rising star in the Russian advertising business during the end of Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev’s program of economic, political, and social reform that started the fall of dominoes that ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union in 1989. Perestroika is never mentioned in Generation P. However, Pepsi Cola receives several mentions. It makes for a poignant foreshadowing of the film’s message and how capitalism, consumerism and advertising ultimately overshadow the efforts of Russia’s true modern and humanist leader.

Instead, the leader of Russia depicted in the era of the film is Boris Yeltsin, the president that would deal with parliament’s impeachment of him by rolling up tanks to the building and firing shells at it. Vladimir Epifantsev in Generation PHere is the pre-Putin Russia that has now fittingly returned down a nasty, if subtle, authoritarian path, and— if you follow the film’s thesis— it begins with tripping on mushrooms and celebrating empty ideology that pushes consumers to buy your product based on purely emotional needs.

Indeed, the path of Babylen is a twisting one, reflected in the recurrent image of the Tower of Babel, which haunts the man. Generation P is a dense, smart film that, even with occasional wordy monologues by characters, retains a twisted, entertaining sense of humor. It’s self-reflexive of the film’s own ideology. At one point, one of Babylen’s mentors states plainly, “We need to give people a show so they forget their mommies, their daddies and their government.”

Generation P - still image

In the end, Babylen is on a trip toward oblivion via advertising, which distills owning things to owning empty ideologies. As he transforms from an underemployed university graduate, who majored in Russian literature and poetry, to an advertising executive, Babylen grows increasingly attached to his alternate life on mushrooms, which helps him bear selling out to the business. Realities blur, as a drug that inspired his breakthrough ideas seem to ensnare him, reducing him to something beyond the medium as message.

Hans Morgenstern

Generation P is not rated but is for adults (consider the role of hallucinogens in the film) is in Russian with English subtitles and runs 112 minutes. The first 50 people to purchase a ticket to the 7:10 p.m. showing tonight, Dec. 7, and tomorrow, Dec. 8, will receive a 30 percent discount and 2 for drinks 1 (with your movie ticket stub) at the Russian Restaurant Lula Kebab House, 18250 Collins Ave, located down the street from the Aventura AMC. The film’s distributor, New World Distribution, provided a screener for the purpose of this review.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
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