Russian TV series: three titles not to be missed

Hidden in the immense offer, on the platform Netflix some Russian series can also be found. Interesting for those who appreciate Eastern cinema and for those who want to get to know it. Of course they are not masterpieces of Slavic cinema: plots and schemes are homologated to Western serials, but they stand out there typically Russian narrative ability, the setting fascinating to our eyes, the psychological complexity of the characters. Although unknown to us, the actors, all excellent, are very popular in Russia, in cinema (including auteur), in theater and on television, while the directors are often young emerging people trained in the great ex-Soviet film schools.

Available in time, we point out the three series currently visible on Netflix Italy. A warning: none of them are dubbed in Italian, but the subtitles in our language are well translated, they can be read without losing sight and basically getting used to the sounds of Russian better brings us into the original atmosphere.

1. To the Lake: an unknown epidemic is rampant in Moscow

Given the circumstances, let’s start with the Netflix original To the Lake, 8 episodes of 50 minutes each: a case in Russia where it was broadcast on a web TV with the title Epidemic. The series in fact, taken from the best seller Vongozero by writer Yana Vagner, was shot just before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the virus that in fiction plagues Russia has flu symptoms the same as ours, which fortunately does not necessarily kill in three days and does not whiten the irises before passing away! But there are many other situations of the serial that unfortunately we know, so that – it is good to warn – these days the vision could disturb us. Even in fiction in fact it happens that an unknown epidemic, at first underestimated, spreads starting from Moscow. The metropolis is militarily isolated and the residential suburbs are attacked by special teams (or gangs of exiles) who in the name of martial law carry out raids, kill, rape. While the race to grab food, gasoline and basic necessities knows no rules, a group of citizens tries to escape to an isolated lake in Karelia, in search of a (Noah’s?) Ark stuck in the ice. If obstacles and tension are typical of the survivor genre, with peaks of action movie violence and horror movie splatter excesses, the series offers glimpses of excellent cinema. For example, in the fifth episode, when the protagonists arrive in a village in the remote Russian countryside, obviously covered in snow, where the peasants organize an epic resistance against the inhuman “liquidators”, who exterminate the infected with gas masks and insulating suits. Here, the imaginary of the huge Soviet catastrophe, Chernobyl, runs through the entire series, frighteningly real as only the Russians have experienced it. Interesting all the characters, typically Russian human characters yes, now of literary ancestry, now modeled on the most prosaic everyday life, but always alive, vital, empathic: the protagonist Sergei disputed between two women, Irina and Anna; the adolescents Misha and Polina, suffering from disorders and addictions; Leonid, a typical rich and vulgar New Russian, accompanied by the young and beautiful Marina; old Boris, former Soviet bureaucrat, or Pavel, the idealistic doctor. All too different from each other, yet united by necessity, in a parable of survival where humanity is put to the test but authentic impulses are not lacking. Suddenly, we reach the open ending, which seems to anticipate a second series.

2. Sparta: Russian teenagers bewitched by a video game

It’s a classy crime story with forays into science fiction Sparta, series of 2018 in 8 episodes of 50 minutes each. The setting is a high school model of St. Petersburg, where strange deaths occur: an accident to a student and the alleged suicide, flying from the school window, of a young teacher. Investigate the case Inspector Kriukov, a Dostoevsky figure with blurred ethical outlines, with a formidable intuition, but psychologically tested and physically impaired by a family trauma. It won’t take him long to discover what lies behind the facade: a virtual universe of violence, sex, intimidation, or rather the videogame “Sparta”, where i good guys they live a parallel life and on which they have become dependent. Difficult to prove, due to the corrupt political power that hinders the discovery of the truth in the name of unscrupulous business. But above all for the low blows of an antagonist who, under the guise of the model student Barks, embodies absolute evil, with his growing following of followers ready for anything. Not even the love of two women who could not be more different nor the memory of a third disappearance will be able to save the inspector with a cathartic redemption: his destiny is among the slums of a never postcard-worthy St. Petersburg, between sordid courtyards and imperial palaces in ruins, where life happens and it can hurt. Around him the characters of a human comedy that actualizes the great Russian novel, with tall social classes of traditional and new Russia acutely represented.

TV series: also discover the news of January 2021

3. Better than us: androids with hearts

Cross sci-fi dominant genres Better than us, Netflix original series of 2019 in 16 episodes (two original series) of 50 minutes each, new episodes in preparation. In a not too distant 2029, against the backdrop of a Moscow of perennial contrasts, futuristic, underground, ancient, citizens now live surrounded by robots, with domestic functions and (various) entertainment, useful but imperfect, sometimes messy. Until the appearance of an android with superior characteristics, the beautiful Arisa, capable of feeling human emotions and ready to do anything to protect its authorized users. Imported from China, the precious specimen unleashes a no-holds-barred war between the powerful distribution company Kronos, which acts with mafia methods on behalf of the diabolical director Toropov, and a gang of liquidators (other recurring figures), or young thugs who destroy the robots to preserve human labor. Among them, involved in spite of himself, a “normal” family opens glimpses of everyday life with the stories of the head of the family Georgi, a doctor and a disgraced father (the same actor who was the protagonist of To the Lake), the ex-wife, the disputed children and a new love that appears. But for the predominant action tones pushed up to the apocalyptic, we recommend the series to lovers of the genre.

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