(Sergei Loznitsa, Germany/ Ukraine/ Netherlands; 2010)
Having read all the warnings that this would be one helluva dark, bleak journey through the bowels of modern-day Russia, my steeled nerves pushed me through this experience with a sense of not really having been tested. Maybe its a matter of being adequately prepared – some films from other years (I'm thinking here of Alexsey Balabanov's Cargo 200 from 2007, or Gyorgy Palfi's Taxidermia from '06) caught me unawares and left me feeling slightly headachey, depressed, and lacking appetite.
My Joy is much better than either of the previously mentioned films, although this story, of a truck-drivers descent into the chaos and brutality of a hell-on-earth in the backwaters of Russia, is not one that I would re-visit in a hurry. I admire the ease that the director finds in designing an apocalyptic world out of components of the everyday in rural Russia, and I admire even more the elliptical unfolding of this brutal world, presented as an unravelling thread of episodic elements through which a narrative is almost fighting to be heard and seen. This almost feels like a horror film, in terms of the nightmarish and abhorrent way people treat each other, but by the film's end it is perhaps not as bleak as most current horror films, with a very vague sense that a modicum of justice has been served and escape from hell is possible.