Brother In Every Inch’: Berlin Review

Alexander Zolotukhin’s second feature, centred around twin Russian military pilot cadets, is an impressive visual feat



Dir: Alexander Zolotukhin. Russia. 2022. 80 mins.

Identical and inseparable twins, Andrey and Mitya, are military cadets whose shared dream to become fighter pilots is hampered by their inability to act independently of their unique bond. A simple conceit that breezes by at a slim 80-minutes, Brother In Every Inch is Alexander Zolotukhin’s second feature – his first, A Russian Youth, premiered in the Forum at Berlin in 2019. Pushing the limits of filmmaking to literally dizzying heights, Brother In Every Inch is exceptionally well crafted although its emotional saga never properly takes flight.

Zolotukhin’s accomplished visual style and his team’s technical skill should secure further play at niche festivals and events

Screening in the Encounters section of the festival – which aims to “foster aesthetically and structurally daring works” – Zolotukhin’s film boasts a truly impressive technique, but the story, which has the potential to be every bit as moving as the form is innovative, mirrors the boys’ dreams by remaining just out of reach. A former student of Alexander Sokurov, and with Sokurov acting as creative consultant on this film, Zolotukhin’s accomplished visual style and his team’s technical skill should secure further play at niche festivals and events interested primarily in aesthetics and experimental perspectives.

Andrey (Sergey Zhuravlev) is calm and the more mature of the two brothers, but he struggles in the classroom and his landings suffer as a result, while Mitya (Nikolay Zhuravlev) understands the physics and mathematics at play but is clumsy and his anxiety induces air sicknesses. Together, their instructor tells them, “you two would make up one great cadet.” Both Andrey and Mitya want to make it as military pilots on their own merits, though, free from the pressures of being compared to each other.

Zolotukhin begins with close-ups of individual faces in the classroom at their military aviation school in the south of Russia (which was filmed on an active military base), then widens out to a two-shot of the twins as their instructor calls on one of them, but by surname at first, inviting us to join in their slight confusion. Eventually Andrey stands up to distinguish himself, but veteran DoP Andrey Naydenov (who photographed Andrey Konchalovskiy’s Venice prize winning Dear Comrades!) has other ideas, repeatedly cutting the camera back to his brother’s face, so that the conversation between teacher and student triangulates, the boys’ anxiety palpable. It’s almost as if the characters are in conflict with the film itself, constantly vying for personal space, but repeatedly denied by both the tight framing of an academy aspect ratio and the even tighter spaces filmed inside the planes.

Many of the shots from the aircraft are astounding: with a camera affixed to its underbelly, we see the ground at close proximity during landing, affording us the visceral first-hand experience of the very real stakes in applying classroom lessons about speed and precision in landing. It then moves down the pointed nose of the plane as the boys’ instructor demonstrates a barrel roll and we experience what causes Mitya to faint while flying. Finally it glides through the endless matted grey of an icy cloud and we see in close-up the barriers through which Andrey assesses a glimpse of safety. The film is at its most exciting in these moments, Zolotukhin having located with military precision, assisted by Naydenov’s brilliant camerawork and Tatyana Kuzmicheva’s fast-paced edits, the pumping pace of adrenalin the characters must be feeling in those life or death moments.

Where the film is let down, however, is in giving us the same sense of pace for the relationship between the brothers. Mostly, that is left to narrative actions and exposition; Andrey playfully calls Mitya a nerd, helps him with the zipper on his trousers, and hands him a sick bag before his aerobatics flight training. Real-life twins, Sergey and Nikolay, for whom this is a first-time experience on film, communicate brotherly affection well and the glances between them that Zolotukhin does allow do communicate a subtle tension. Ultimately, however, the dramatic stakes never soar as high as the camera.

Production company: Proline Film

International sales: Loco Films, 

Producers: Andrey Sigle, Mary Nazari

Screenplay: Alexander Zolotukhin, Mikhail Tyazhev

Production design: Elena Zhukhova

Editing: Tatyana Kuzmicheva

Cinematography: Andrey Naydenov

Main cast: Sergey Zhuravlev, Nikolay Zhuravlev, Mikhail Klabukov, Alexandra Shevyreva, Egor Kutushov

Source: Screen Daily


Brother In Every Inch’: Berlin Review

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