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Dau – Ilya Khrzhanovsky

Annual Top Films Lists

Top 150 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2019: #16. Dau – Ilya Khrzhanovsky

Top 150 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2019: #16. Dau – Ilya Khrzhanovsky


It looks as if 2019 will be the year we see Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s insane recuperation of Stalinist era Russia with the infamous Dau. Some rumblings on the project in 2017, the first in years, had us hoping to see the project sometime in 2018. But the appearance of a trailer and the film’s website,, would appear that Khrzhanovsky’s extensive footage has finally been edited into some kind of cohesive piece. If 2019 proves to be its unveiling, this will be thirteen years in the making, beginning with a filming period which began in 2006 and lasted for six years. Supposedly, Dau is a biopic on famed Russian scientist Lev Landau—but Khrzhanovsky created his own kind of immersive cinematic landscape a la Synecdoche, New York (2008) and razed his communal period set-pieces in a famous funeral pyre/bacchanalian celebration. The film’s website had suggested various formats for which audiences would be able to consume the result of what was supposedly born from 700 hours’ worth of footage, whether that be a television series or 13 distinct features. IMDb lists the title at five and a half hours with a 2019 date for Russia, but if anything has been learned from the decade plus of waiting for Dau, we’ll just have to eventually see it to believe it. In September of 2018, city officials blocked Khrzhanovsky’s requested art installation of Dau, which had proposed erecting the Berlin Wall in commemoration of its destruction. The installation would have allowed audience members to ‘cross’ the border into a resurrected East Berlin to view the 13 hours of footage, which would have included interactive social media to guide users through. However, the project didn’t get approved, though security issues and a limited time frame might eventually be worked out for this to happen next year.

Featuring the work of three separate cinematographers (Lol Crowley, Jurgen Jurges, Manuel Alberto Claro), produced by Philippe Bober (Enter the Void, 2009; The Square, 2017) and Artyom Vasilev (Paper Soldier, 2008; Under Electric Clouds, 2015; Dovlatov, 2018), we’re hoping Dau, in whatever form, finally appears in 2019. Conductor Teodor Currentzis stars as Landau. Khrzhonvsky’s last feature, the stellar 2004 4 premiered in the first edition of Venice Days at the Venice Film Festival.

Gist: An immersive biopic on Nobel prize winning scientist Lev Landu.

Release Date/Prediction: While Cannes would have once been the obvious platform for such an inexplicable cinematic endeavor, unwieldy and experimental ambitions don’t seem appreciated by the current programming administration. As such, we also pegged Dau as something which would be welcomed to compete for Locarno’s Golden Leopard or as Berlinale installation. However, according to the film’s website, participants are able to register for three different tiers of experience at the film’s premiere in Paris in January 2019.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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