Притяжение (Attraction) was Russia’s highest grossing movie of 2017. A visually spectacular sci-fi / romance, it also offered considerable social commentary on how Russian society views and treats immigrants.
Притяжение (Attraction) was released in Russia and a handful of Eastern European countries on January 26th, 2017. Притяжение (2017) is about an alien ship that crash-lands in Moscow’s Chertanovo District, causing destruction, an uprising, and the discovery of true love. According to the scriptwriters, Притяжение was inspired by the 2013 Biryulovo Riots, in which destructive protest ensued after news of a Russian citizen being killed by a migrant worker in the Biryulovo District of Moscow. Притяжение, directed by Russian mega-star Fedor Bondarchuck, shows masses of people blindly adhere to an anti-extraterrestrial campaign and the situation escalates into needless violence.
The film begins with Yulya Levedeva and Svetlana Morozova listening to their science teacher speak about extraterrestrial life, which leads to heated debate among students about space exploration. After class, Svetlana gives Yulya tickets to a concert they’re planning on attending. The two girls are definitely too cool for school, a quality that Yulya’s forceful boyfriend, Artyom, enhances when he picks her up in a BMW blasting rap music. The friends go to the roof of Svetlana’s building to watch a meteor shower together along with Artyom’s rowdy friends. Yulya and Artyom slip away to Svetlana’s bedroom together, and a short while after tragedy strikes: a UFO crashes into the very building in which the youth are gathered.
Svetlana is killed and Artyom and Yulya narrowly avoid death. Artyom rushes Yuyla to her father, General Lebedev, at the nearby military base where the situation is being monitored. Lebedev confirms that the disaster was the result of extraterrestrial activity, and panic sets in among the populace. Martial law is declared, curfews ensue, and Chertanovo is on the hunt for the alien that wrecked their neighborhood.
After recovering from their wounds, Yulya and Artyom meet up with more of Artyom’s friends who have now formed a vigilante group to seek out and kill the alien. They all sneak into the now closed-off scene of the crash landing and begin their search. Yulya goes up to her friend’s old bedroom, and soon encounters the alien. Out of fear, she nearly tumbles to her death, but is saved by the alien. Soon after, the boys find the alien and Yulya protects it when it becomes injured. Later that day, she returns to the site and smuggles the wounded, and very human, alien, whose name is Hekon, back to her home.
The film goes on to depict Yulya’s actions as she enlists the help of a friend nicknamed “Google” to help get Hekon out of Moscow. Yulya and Google teach Hekon the minimum skills necessary for him to pass as human (this includes how to dress, walk with cadence, and how to eat), while also playing pranks on him as they get comfortable with each other. Hekon, in turn, delves into deep conversation regarding the morality of human existence and the importance of love. While Yulya helps Hekon retrieve the confiscated parts of his spaceship by using the resources her General father unknowingly supplies to the pair, Artyom and his friends lead the “Our Earth” movement, which resembles a nationalist political movement, as riots sprout across the city.
The film was produced by Art Pictures Studio and Vodorod 2011. It was the top-grossing Russian film of 2017, grossing a total of $15 million worldwide ($6.9 million in Russia). It also managed to score a considerable profit, which is often a rare occurance for Russian films. It was produced on a $5.2 million budget. However, critically, its reception is mixed. It received only a 46% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes a rating of 67% positive on KinoPoisk, whcih is more widely-used by Russians, but also a rating of 80% on KinoSled, another popular Russia-specific movie site.
Притяжение stars Rinal Mukhametov as Hekon. Mukhametov is of Tatar origin, Russia’s largest national minority. However, his outward appearance and light skin can be taken for Russian. Thus, this is commentary likely to be noticed by anyone who knows the actor – or at least his noticably Tatar name in the credits.
Притяжение’s main character, Yulya Lebedeva, is successfully portrayed by Irina Starshenbaum as couragous and daring in helping the alien even while society tries to hunt down the unknown force. As a science fiction film, the movie has dark moments, but Yulya’s determination to help the kind-hearted alien who saved her life is inspiring and heart-warming.
Artyom’s transformation, portrayed by Alexandr Petrov, is remarkable in its own right. The young man develops from a roughhousing hooligan into an driven, obsessive, and jealous individual. Artyom’s rage deepens to a point where his confrontation with Hekon marks the climax of the film as well as the beginning of Artyom’s sad decline, which is shown with both pain and determination.
The film’s cinematography is remarkable; its dramatic portrayal of the spacecraft crash landing in Moscow is realistic, yet fantastical at the same time. The otherworldly quality of the alien Hekon’s protective suit and the sheer size of his spaceship remind the viewers of the disparity between humans the alien race paying a visit to Earth. However, an important part of the film centers around the similarities that humans share with the aliens. In fact, Hekon himself is human in appearance, as he’s a representative of a scientifically advanced humanoid race which seeks to conduct research on Earth. The crash landing was accidental.
Hekon writes in his research at the movie’s end that Earth’s civilization is an “extremely aggressive social environment.” The frequent depictions of riot violence, shown especially as the film reaches its climax, reinforces this conclusion and the viewer is left with a critical view of society.
Watch the full movie on KinoSled here.
Watch the trailer: