Atlantis | Chicago Reader
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Atlantis

In the not-so-distant future (2025, to be exact), eastern Ukraine is a virtually uninhabitable wasteland where water is scarce and the arid landscape is littered with abandoned mines. At the beginning of Ukrainian writer-director-cinematographer Valentyn Vasyanovych’s conspicuously spare third feature, two veterans of a recently concluded war with Russia take turns doing target practice, which devolves into one of the men shooting the other in his bulletproof vest—in a subsequent scene, the tormented aggressor throws himself into a pit of melted iron ore. The man who’s left, a similarly PTSD-afflicted former soldier called Sergiy (Andriy Rymaruk), is soon established as the protagonist of this severe examination of life after war; he gets laid off from his job at a factory and finds a new one delivering water. He also begins working with an organization that salvages the remains of unidentified soldiers, where he meets Katya (Liudmyla Bileka), the two forging a tentative romance amid the economic and ecologic depression of their homeland. Vasyanovych conveys much of the plot through enveloping medium-long shots and protracted takes in which it’s often initially unclear as to what’s happening—sometimes there’s little context to the activity onscreen, while other times the action is obscured altogether. Vasyanovych’s aesthetic is commanding, with occasional experimental flourishes and the rendering of a post-apocalyptic hellscape comparable to The Zone from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker; it feels well-trod, however, another art-house-inflected trip through something we’ve seen before and, in our ever-increasingly wartorn civilization, no doubt will again. In Ukrainian and English with subtitles.

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