When David (Merab Ninidze) expresses his frustration at the corruption of the mayor in their provincial Russian town by drawing a political cartoon, it is not the city administration that is investigated. The protagonist finds himself framed in a retaliatory accusation of embezzlement from the university he works for. As the professor awaits trial for a crime he did not commit, he is placed under house arrest.
Not unlike a chamber play, House Arrest takes place in one location: David’s home. Sometimes viewers see the staircase as he talks to neighbours about water leaks; on one occasion his students visit him and they sit together in the garden, philosophising and singing folk songs. As a result, the film hinges on dialogue. Director Aleksey German Jr – who, after presenting his films Paper Soldier and Under Electric Clouds at Venice and Berlin respectively, now completes the trifecta at Cannes – collaborated with Maria Ogneva on the script. Every piece of information the audience receives comes from the lips of one of the characters and consequently has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
The acting in this feature is nuanced. The character’s mother, lawyer and police officers are recurring points of contact and Ninidze delivers a scene that is is emblematic of his cabin fever, in which he talks to his mother’s dog.
While House Arrest is a specific story about an individual situation and German Jr’s latest contestation with his country’s inability to take criticism, there are also universal truths that anybody watching can relate to. The accusation of “befouling one’s own nest” when speaking out publicly about injustices, instead of a government’s honest attempt to listen to its citizens and try to improve, is not exclusive to a single country.
Especially after the audience’s own experience with limited exposure to the outside world over the past year, they can connect to the restlessness David feels while confined to his four walls.
House Arrest (Delo) does not have a UK release date set.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.