Evgeniy Tsyganov in "The Man Who Surprised Everyone" (2018)

Evgeniy Tsyganov in The Man Who Surprised Everyone (2018)

The Man Who Surprised Everyone is co-directed and co-scripted by husband and wife team Aleksey Chupov and Natalya Merkulova (Intimate Places, About Love, Only for Adults, Gogol, Beginning). The directors define the film as a “parable about the resistance of the ordinary Russian man to death” and explain that it is “based on the personal memories of director Natalya Merkulova, her Siberian childhood, the village in which she grew up, the people who surrounded her, and the legends that were told in those places”. The film was presented in the Orizzonti section of the 75th Venice Film Festival where it garnered the Best Actress award for Natalya Kudryashova it also rated a special mention at El Gouna.

The story follows a fearless state forest guard in Siberia. One day, he finds out he only has two months to live and decides to make a desperate attempt to trick death by taking the identity of a woman. The real story begins here, with the terrifying reactions of Egor’s family and neighbors. Playing the part of a woman requires him to remain mute, to ignore his family duties, to cut off all ties with his former identity. Unable to tell people why he is suddenly cross-dressing, he inadvertently unleashes the worst of the rural Russian soul. The film stars Evgeniy Tsiganov (The Draft, Battle for Sevastopol) and Natalya Kudryashova (Pioneers-Heroes). "When I first read the script,” the actress told us, “I understood perfectly well that in order to complete this role, I would need to dive into very dark matters. Frankly, I did not want to step into experiences of illness (and) death. I have to confess, that in the past I turned down roles about illness and death. But this script had a magical parable foundation. This film is a fairy tale about unbearable fragility of human life and every human's dream of defiance of death, a victory over inevitability.”

The film is shot with a Nordic calm gaze by Estonian born DP Mart Taniel. Vadim Krasnitsky's editing keeps the storytelling smooth and fluid. The producer of the film, Katya Filippova, added that the directors managed to create a very relevant and delicate film, which should be appealing to both domestic and foreign audiences. Its affecting condemnation of Russian attitudes to homosexuality should have art house audiences listening.