On the Edge of Freedom

Sydney Levine from SydneysBuzz on First Lights selection On the Edge of Freedom by Jens Lengerke and Anita Mathal Hopland (central European premiere).

On the Edge of Freedom (Jens Lengerke, Anita Mathal Hopland, 2017)

On the Edge of Freedom is a film about “urban exploration” in Moscow.  Angela Nikolau, a young art student, accompanies two young roofers named Ivan and Igo. With no safety measures, they conquer the tallest buildings and the deepest abysses in Russia and Ukraine. There are certainly enough reasons to be afraid, especially today, but these young people have found their very own way to conquer fear during their death-defying explorations of off-limits urban spaces.

The three young people, along with a fourth anonymous cinematographer, deal with their lives in a thoroughly modern way, by shooting videos of themselves in terrifying situations. They climb skyscrapers and other monuments,explore active rail tunnels, and venture into a secret bunker buried 100 meters below the streets of Moscow. They descend into the deepest abysses of post-Soviet Moscow and Ukraine.  Their exploits, legally risky in the first place, are also punishable with an 80 Euro fine because they are encouraging young people to emulate them.

Their activities become professional, as they begin to give tours to other thrill seekers of, for example, Chernobyl.  They are invited to Taijin, China to scale a 150-story skyscraper still under construction.  Angela, who has been diagnosed with a dangerous blood condition, accepts the job even though she has only climbed 70-story buildings. Whle getting  her nails painted, she decides to ditch the bandage she is required to wear to ward off the blood clots that threaten her life.

These daredevils discuss fear and their belief that, with understanding of how it works, one can overcome it.  And they instill fear in the audience.  There was a point where I could not stand the tension and fear that their feats instilled in me, even through the mediation of a camera!

Later,  one of the young men lunches with his parents, discussing the great fall of wages since the Ukrainian Revolution. He mentions that, during the demonstrations, he and his team gave away 100 to 200 gas masks that they had stolen from an abandoned air raid shelter.  His father answers that “If something challenges our understanding of the world and contributes positively to it at the same time, then it has the right to exist.”  He adds that it is great his son is interested in Kiev. If he could earn some money from it, however, it would be better.

Angela, on the other hand, is afraid to ask her parents for the 150 Euros she needs for medicine to treat her illness. Of course, as the cameraman points out, she had no qualms about taking the 450 Euros from them to buy her iPhone. And she is completely fearless when stepping along unknown mechanical constructions, thousands of meters above the ground, with no safety precautions at all.

The film ends with a close-up of Angela and her partner, scaling the Chinese skyscraper in Tianjin and climbing out on the arm of the crane. The camera pulls back to show the city itself, a final lurch of emotion and disbelief.

Thoughts of fear and how to conquer it, and of the scarce ways to protest the rules of society, if not of politics, remain with the viewer long after the shock and fear of watching these young people and their exploits has worn off.

The picture of these two lone, tiny figures, standing at the end of a crane on the highest building in the world, overlooking a city in the largest nation in the world, is stunning.

Sydney Levine 

Sydney Levine invented FilmFinders, the first film database tracking worldwide films for acquisitions executives. She now updates companies from North and South America for the Cannes Film Market, the Berlin European Film Market, and Ventana Sur in Buenos Aires. Her blog SydneysBuzz is on Indiewire covering the international independent film business.

more articles from a section:  Review

1+2.19On Sounds by ImageThe film journalist Antonín Tesař writes about the new film The Sound Is Innocent directed by Johana Ožvold.Antonín Tesař
1+2.19 Music as a Lag Between Death and InfinityJanis Prášil ruminates on Solo – this year´s winner of Ji.hlava Czech Joy section – which comes to cinemas. Did the picture succeed in depicting the inner world, so hard to portray, of a mentally ill musician? And what if it is the illness itself which enables people to take a look into the grievous core of being?Janis Prášil
1+2.19A Place to Take a BreathThe film journalist Janis Prášil compares two documentary portraits of this year – Forman vs. Forman and Jiří Suchý: Tackling Life with Ease on his blog.Janis Prášil
F2.18The Silence of Others This film by Almudena Carracedo and Rober Bahar, produced by the Almodóvar brothers, screams out for justice for the unpunished crimes of the Franco régime
F4.17China, 87. The OthersWill Tizard from Variety on the Opus Bonum selection China 87. The Others by Violaine de VillersWill Tizard
F2.17Máme tlakovú níž / Richard Müller: Nepoznaný
F1.17Also Known as JihadiWill Tizard from Variety on the Opus Bonum selection Also Known as Jihadi byEric BaudelaireWill Tizard
F1.17The Lust for PowerWill Tizard from Variety on Opus Bonum selection The Lust for Power by Tereza Nvotová (world premiere).Will Tizard
F3.17Acts and IntermissionsColin Beckett on Opus Bonum selection Acts and Intermissions by Child Abigail (internationale premiere).Colin Beckett
F3.17Enticing Sugary Boundless or Songs and Dances about DeathColin Beckett on Between the Seas selection Enticing Sugary Boundless or Songs and Dances about Death by Tetiana Khodakivska and Oleksandr Stekolenko (world premiere). Colin Beckett

starší články

25. 10. 2017

from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoySportPandemic as an opportunityJi.hlava's Emerging Producers discuss the opportunity that can emerge from crisisSteve RickinsonInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková