Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adventures of a Dentist

Pokhozhdyeniya zubnovo vracha; satire, Russia, 1965; D: Elem Klimov, S: Andrey Myagkov, Vera Vasilyeva, Alisa Freindlich

A young dentist, Chesnokov, moves to a small town and finds out he has a special talent: he can extract bad teeth from patients without pain, in only two seconds. He quickly rises to prominence, but other dentists see his talent as a threat to their own careers and thus arrange a commission to inspect him. During that visit, Chesnokov refuses to pull out a bad tooth from Masha because it is complicated, thus sending her to a specialized clinic. However, because of that delay, Masha misses her wedding by a day, and thus her engagement is ruined. Plagued by rumors spread by jealous dentists, Chesnokov loses his talent and thus quits the clinic in order to become a lecturer at a dentist university. When the students have to pull out a tooth in practise, his talent returns, and a girl student discovers she has the same talent as well.

Elem Klimov's 2nd feature length film, "Adventures of a Dentist" is a bitter satire about how a special talent in certain field can become a burden to an individual who is surrounded by crushing jealousy in a vain society: the synechdoche storyline about a dentist who has a talent of extracting teeth without pain mirrors not only the director's own trauma for having great talent in film making than other directors, or the Totalitarian Soviet society, but the global behavior as a whole. Faced with a town where each of his mistakes is exacerbated while all of his positive achievements are belittled, the hero thus quits his clinic and loses his talent. Klimov has a few moments where his stylistic side is once again demonstrated, mostly while breaking the 4th wall (a man, the narrator, sits at the dentist's chair and looks into the camera, saying: "I was Chesnokov's second patient!"; while Chesnokov and a girl are walking on the street, subtitles show up in the background that say how he accidentally ruined Masha's marriage when he sent her to a clinic on her wedding day; while walking in the middle of the road, Chesnokov and a girl embrace each other, while all the passerbys on the sidewalk, left and right, stop to look at them. And when he two stop hugging and continue walking, the passerbys continue walking as well), yet the movie somehow seems too schematic, stiff and its narrative underdeveloped, since it is not always clear why a certain character reacts the way he does, whereas the ending seems abrupt and not elaborated enough, which somewhat undermines the premise from coming to full expression.


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