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The Light Thief (Svet-Ake) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
13 08 2011
ImageDirected by Aktan Arym Kubat

Any unevenness or obscurities in the plot of this intriguing film are totally overridden by the gorgeous look of the thing and the cultural interest in a country, Kyrgyzstan, of which we know next to nothing. As well as the stunning cinematic instincts of Aktan Arym Kubat as director, and his beguiling performance as the leading character, there's, appropriately, the pure clear light of the place, which you can almost taste in your breath like mountain air, which make it compelling viewing.

Svet-Ake (Kubat) - the name means Mr Light - is the electrician to a small village set by the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, one of the most eastern old Soviet republics, now subject, like so many others, to instability and political corruption. It's apparent from the very beginning that he is an archetypal honest man, the good Samaritan, bringer of light actually and metaphorically to the village with his beaming face, ever ready to help others, including siphoning off the odd watt of electricity for people who can't afford it, for which he loses his job. Village life, the public meetings, the sport, kids playing, the family life, are unselfconsciously but vividly portrayed, all in the astonishingly clear and pristine light of the place. But there's also an unease brought on by the feel of change - the beautiful wife of a friend is seen leaving for a life elsewhere, and the death of the village leader allows the influence of more sophisticated outsiders to impinge. As Svet-Ake is drawn in, by his good intentions, we feel nothing good will come of it, and so it happens. His innocent thieving of light from the electric company at the beginning is countered by a far worse darkening by the end.

Purity, clarity, simplicity are words that keep coming to mind about this film, and that is its real delight, along with some stunning images, most poetic of which is probably the funeral scene of the mayor when, seen from above, the villagers cover the coffin with dry soil which rises in clouds to make them also seem to be vanishing into the earth. I began watching with the idea that this might be my only chance to see a Kyrgyz film - but looking at the talent and capability of this director I'm quite sure, for him at least, it's just the beginning.

Seen at Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 8 August 2011

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