Russian writer-director Diana Galimzyanova impresses with 2017’s beautifully obtuse mystery, The Lightest Darkness (Samaya svetlaya tma). The black and white noir is told across two different time frames, one which moves forward, while the other is told in reverse. It’s a clever way of delivering the plot and the whole piece feels like a wonderful amalgamation of Christopher Nolan’s first two films, Following and Memento.
Rashid Aitouganov plays Musin, a private detective haunted by his last case, takes a train journey on a line which is being plagued by a serial killer. Soon his past and present will collide in an unexpected way. Marina Voytuk and Irina Gevorgyan play curious passengers on the train, while Kolya Neukoelln is a mysterious women from Musin’s past.
The best way to experience The Lightest Darkness is to go in knowing as little as possible. The above synopsis is more than enough to let you know about where things start and where they’re going. Diana Galimzyanova’s film is all about the journey and it’s delivered in a wonderfully playful way, one which doesn’t stop this from being a captivating mystery. You’ll feel the urge to rewatch this once it ends to see how it all fits together.
Shot on a limited budget, The Lightest Darkness has some gloriously impressive visuals courtesy of Svetlana Makarova and Aleksey Petrushkevich’s black and white cinematography. There’s a bleak beauty on display here and the film feels as if its set in some netherworld, where the 1940s have been infused by modern technology. These visuals are perfectly complimented by Ioana Dobroiu’s musical score, which adds a dreamlike quality to proceedings. The whole thing is wonderfully assembled by writer-director Galimzyanova’s editing.
There’s so much on offer on this perfectly composed piece of filmmaking. The deliberate pace sees the story unfold like a half-remembered dream. Billed as the first ever female-directed Russian film noir with reverse chronology, The Lightest Darkness marks Diana Galimzyanova as a filmmaking talent to watch on the international scene.