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New Directors/New Films Festival: 'The Fool'

by Photo of April Baptiste-Brown

Director Yuriy Bykov touches on corrupt Russian politics in the drama ‘The Fool’

New Directors/New Films Festival: 'The Fool'

In this article…

One of the hardest things someone can do is try to convince a group of nonbelievers that what you’re saying is truth. That is the core of Yuriy Bykov’s Russian political drama The Fool.

Plumber and engineering student Dima lives with his parents, wife and toddler son in a housing complex in a less than posh area of the city. However when he’s called in to check a water pipe burst in the slums of town, he discovers a giant crack up the sides of the building that threatens the lives of the 800 inhabitants housed inside. Driven by his desire to do the right thing, Dima crashes the mayor’s birthday party to alert her to the impending collapse of the building. However, convincing a table of drunken town counselors, who've spent much of their careers siphoning government money for their own achievements, proves to be a nearly impossible task. Dima quickly realizes that doing the right thing in the face of adversity might not be the best path to walk down.

The Fool was quite a memorable and moving portrayal of the problems with political corruption in Russia (and the world as a whole). A great deal of the movie is spent truly hoping that Dima would be able to convince the corrupt group of the problems with the building, but there were several underlying issues that made them accepting his truth much more difficult.

Besides the obvious factor of greed, admitting a fault in the building’s infrastructure would also admit to a clear neglect of human life, which is argued throughout the film to be not that valuable depending on the living conditions of the person. And since the people in this particular tenement were considered the dregs of society, saving the building and people within always seemed to be negotiable. This is a problem that we face in today’s world as well, where the value of a human life is often scaled more on what the person owns or their contribution to society, and less on the simple principle that they represent a human life.

Furthermore, Dima’s home life also contributed to his unrelenting pursuit for righteousness. His father and mother, though they could be found bickering throughout most of the film, only wanted Dima to have a better life than the one they provided him. However it was his father’s constant optimism that often received his mother’s criticism. (His father repeatedly fixing a bench outside their property after delinquent children consistently destroyed it was a testament to the patriarch’s belief in obtaining what was good.) His mother believed that this characteristic rubbed off on Dima and made him ‘foolish’ (as hope can often be called a fool’s paradise). But it was in Dima’s quest to repair the dilapidated building (and the city's corruption) that truly tested how far he was willing to go for a righteous cause.

The Fool is a prime example of what happens when you decide to tell people the truth. Director Yuriy Bykov was tenacious in his presentation of corruption, greed, and honor (among thieves). It truly showcases that often doing what is right doesn’t always mirror doing what is best.

This film was presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMa during the 44th Annual New Directors/New Films Festival.

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