Article by Francesco Ghio
Translation by Giorgia Legrottaglie
History is always written by the winners, by those who come first, those who wear the medal and have their faces portrayed on the front pages of newspapers. At the same time, the voice of the defeated fades and melts like snow under the rays of noon, so adept at melting those strong words. La Palisiada comes as a courageous attempt to restore the other face of truth, the one written by the losers, trampled by the news, annoying to those who wield power. The problem, however, remains the same: at some point, you have to deal with reality.
Philip Sotnychenko’s first feature film, after winning the FIPRESCI prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival, is now in competition at the 41st Turin Film Festival and stands as the witness that history is not one-sided. To give voice to its thesis, La Palisiada brings to the stage the trial of the last of the state-sanctioned executions prior to the moratorium on capital punishment, which went into effect in August ’96. The director decides to do so by following in the footsteps of forensic psychiatrist Oleksandr (Andrii Zhurba) and his friend detective Ilhar (Novruz Hikmet), who are intent on finding the murderer of a police colonel. In this case, however, it does not matter finding the right person; what really matters is finding a sacrificial victim.
Sotnychenko constructs a gory, dirty, ruthless noir, where fairy tales fail to carve out their proper space, where parents do not necessarily raise monsters, but force their children to bear the legacy of their monstrosity. The atmosphere is post-apocalyptic: the past continues to interfere with the present, and the angelic voices of the children’s choirs are not enough to forget that part of their songs were written by others. Time in La Palisiada seems to have stopped. The Ukraine that Sotnychenko decides to bring to the screen still has the face of the colonized, that of those who cannot get rid of their skeletons in the closet and who abandon in fear their desire to change things. And in the meantime, weapons increase in number and one must prepare for a long night: there is a sense in the air that some shots may be fired. On these occasions, the Russian authors have always been eloquent: “If a gun appears in a novel, you have to shoot.”