Directed by Diana Galimzyanova
Spurred by film-noir momentum and Kafkian conundrum, “The Lightest Darkness” is a visually strong neo-noir thriller that promises much but gives little. If the black-and-white cinematography by Svetlana Makarova and Alexey Petrushkevich deserves accolade, then the script, penned by debutant Russian director Diana Galimzyanova, is parched in emotion. She evokes the mood and tones of Hitchcock’s “Strangers On a Train” and Kawalerowicz’s “Night Train”, but the effort ends up deprived of real tension.
In the fictional City of N., two women take a dangerous train trip, knowing that the Fruiterer, an undisclosed serial killer who only kills at night, is on board. The fearless women are Arina (Irina Gevorgyan), an obstinate screenwriter who is currently seeking crime-related inspiration for a new video game, and Elina (Marina Voytuk), a self-reliant pianist who witnessed the last killing. Sharing the car with these two powerful female presences is Musin (Rashid Aitouganov), an insomniac, neurotic, and heavily traumatized private detective whose fluctuant behavior leads us to believe he may be the killer. Moreover, he is riding on the same train for six months.
The story, told backwards with the help of hazy flashbacks, pushes us to a puzzling mystery that gets lost in an idle conversational mode. As an alternative to suspense, Ms. Galimzyanova dabbles in human psychology and mysticism when she introduces Izolda (Kolya Neukoelln), a sinister Holistic experimenter who is strictly connected with voodoo and spiritism. She is the therapist of the attention-seeking Lyubov (Kseniya Zemmel), the missing woman whom Musin was hired to find. However, instead of focusing on his goal, he gets emotionally involved with the manipulative therapist.
Lacking a proper climax and shattered by plot holes, the film takes us to narrow train hallways and inconsequent therapy sessions, both of which are far from being exciting. Moreover, none of the characters earned my sympathy or piqued any sort of curiosity, not even in regard to their enigmatic yet muddled pasts. Thus, watching “The Lightness Darkness” was a limited experience that failed to give something more than just visual pleasure.