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The Independent Critic

Rashid Aitouganov, Marina Voytuk, Kolya Neukolin, Irina Gevorgyan, Vyacheslav Manucharov, Alexander Rapoport, Tatyana Ukharova
Diana Galimzyanova
83 Mins.

 "The Lightest Darkness" a Unique, Visionary Film Noir from Russia 
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The first ever female-directed Russian film noir with reverse chronology, writer/director Diana Galimzyanova's The Lightest Darkness is a mesmerizing film to view, Svetlana Makarova and Alexey Petrushkevich's lensing glistening across the big screen with its pristine black-and-white imagery holding the secrets behind the tale of R.I. Musin (Rashid Aitouganov), a neurotic private eye overly invested in a complex case that has troubled him for far too long. Working to finish up the estate of a recently deceased uncle (Alexander Rapoport), Musin finds himself traveling by train alongside a concert pianist (Marina Voytuk) and Arina (Irina Gevorgyan, a screenwriter trying to complete the script for an upcoming videogame that she reports to be as complex as any old novel. The game in question, as chance would have it, is to be based on the extraordinary case of The Fruiterer, an infamous serial killer still haunting the night trains having claimed at least six victims. 

The Lightest Darkness gives us a panicked husband (Vladimir Morozov) hiring the detective to hunt down his missing wife, Lyubov (Ksenia Zemmel), known to be last seen by her somewhat controversial therapist, Izolda Ivanoff (Kolya Neukolin), with whom Musin finds himself increasingly entangled and not entirely for professional reasons. 

The first feature film from Galimzyanova, The Lightest Darkness is an unusual beast of a film with its black-and-white cinematography, evenly paced dialogue, and Ioana Dobroiu's semi-industrial original score, The Lightest Darkness is a dazzling work of simplicity and wonder that weaves together Galimzyanova's obviously strong knowledge of cinematic history with a unique vision that is all her own. 

The film's ensemble cast is uniformly strong, Aitouganov's Musin constantly building intrigue even as his path feels pre-destined and inevitable. Both Voytuk and Gevorgyan are young actresses I could simply watch for hours, their body language communicating far beyond the simplicity of their words. 

As a Russian film, kudos must be given to Galimzyanova's production team for constructing absolutely stellar subtitles, an often dismissed art in itself, ensuring the film is beautifully translated for English-speaking viewers and avoiding any unnecessary distractions in a film where watching everything absolutely matters. 

Yulia Golomedova's production design is stellar from beginning to end, while the aforementioned lensing has already picked up the prize for Best Cinematography at the Las Cruces International Film Festival. I have no doubt additional awards are to follow. 

While it's unlikely that The Lightest Darkness will show up as an entry representing Russia at the Academy Awards, rest assured this is high quality cinema and a terrific independent voice indicating a promising future for Galimzyanova. For more information on the film, visit its official website linked to in the credits and watch for it at a festival near you. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic