A Room and a Half, An Ecstatically Fanciful Film By Andrey Khrzhanovsky


Condemned under the Soviets to internal exile for “social parasitism” (more commonly known as poetry), Joseph Brodsky fled to the West in 1972 and did not return to his beloved St. Petersburg before he died at 55 in 1996. In this ecstatically fanciful film, Russian filmmaker Andrey Khrzhanovsky brings the acclaimed Nobel Laureate back home via his sonorous verse and a montage of archival footage, wickedly doctored photos, re-enactments, and puckish animation featuring two crows and a very large cat. As played by actor Grigoriy Dityakovsky, a ringer for the impish writer, Brodsky bears witness to his life—from his childhood as the only son of doting parents, through his youth under Stalin as a cocky dissident who scorned his country’s endemic anti-Semitism, to his years as a fledgling poet ravenous for Western literature, honing his craft while exiled in a freezing village. The almost unbearable final sequence imagines Brodsky on his return, filled with wonder at the new, capitalized Russia and sorrow at the empty, subdivided apartment that his parents had made into a warm nest. If Brodsky’s return to St. Petersburg is to be read as a break for intellectual freedom, it is most agonizingly understood as his return to the home and parents he had been so desperate to leave as a youth. The loss from exile, Khrzhanovsky suggests, was not his alone.