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WARD No. 6 

Thursday, Dec 16 2010
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GO  WARD NO. 6 Based on Chekhov's 1892 story of a provincial doctor who winds up in his own asylum, scourged out of his professional complacency by dialogues with a philosophical inmate, Aleksander Gornovsky and Karen Shakhnazarov's film begins on a dust-blowing conceit, interviewing actual wards of the state in a contemporary Russian institution. Konchalovsky's Vanya assured its Soviet audience that they were looking back on prehistory from the better world that Vanya and Dr. Astrov wish they'd been born to. In Ward No. 6, Aleksei Vertkov's prophet-madman is still awaiting "the beautiful life there will be on Earth in time," here, today, on the far side of Russian Utopianism. Investigating the breakdown of Vladimir Ilyin's Dr. Ragin, Ward No. 6 divides Chekhov's dialogue between mock-documentary inquest, home video and straight psychodrama. Like the best adaptations, even its inventions are good: a vision of the 17th-century foundation of the monastery-turned-hospital, which draws the sense of the story's continuity into the past, and the inmate who believes Yuri Andropov commanded him to kill John Lennon. (Nick Pinkerton) (Monica)

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Reach the writer at nick.pinkerton@gmail.com

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