June 11, 2023
Which Way Is Up? s01e07 — Still Free + Natura

What does freedom look like in contemporary society? Albeit in totally different ways, the two directors of this double reflect on this loaded question through their digital films. 

A film must confront the world in which it is made, but also the one in which it is shown. When Vadim Kostrov accompanied young couple Katya and Kostya to a nearby lake, and filmed them with the directness for which he is known, he couldn’t foresee the political implications of these images that Still Free consists of. At the time Kostya was about to join the Russian military — a decision he came to regret later on. It’s breathtaking to witness the film’s playful innocence, while at the same time measuring every word against the destructive nature of war — yet the film outlines more than a political parable: Kostrov reflectively turns towards the few hours of light in the face of an impending darkness, which linger too briefly.

A similar fleeting, ethereal quality permeates Natura, Matti Harju’s debut film from Finland — a highlight at the last edition of IFFR. This is a contemporary post-COVID rumination on the deception of envy and the isolation of our interconnected world. Nihilistically boasting about the abandonment of ideology, two ostracized Finnish men find each other online. Recreating themselves as active protagonists, they take charge of their lives and their fortunes by planning to break into a crypto-millionaire's remote home. 

Instead of relying heavily on plot, both of these films tend towards the moments of inbetweenness that actually make up for most of life. It’s in focussing on textural details that they actually capture what it means to live in a seemingly post-ideological space, where the meanings of actions are often obscured. 

Title: Still Free + Natura | Director: Vadim Kostrov, Matti Harju | Year: 2023  | Runtime: 31 min & 68 min

About the programme: Which Way Is Up? is a recurring film series curated by film critic Hugo Emmerzael, offering critiques and reflections on our postmodern, late capitalist hellworld through the lens of digital film — from mainstream blockbusters to experimental cinema.