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The epic roleplaying stunt Dau is now churning out epicly bad movies (polygon.com)
70 points by nkurz 33 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

Is there more of a summary of what this film or thing ... is?

My reading comprehension sometimes escapes me, but to me the article starts like I already know what it is talking about. So these people went about their daily lives being constantly filmed only on set? Round the clock? They lived there? They chose to do this?

This seems absolutely bonkers. World's largest LARP. Extremely Soviet to have what is effectively a Potemkin village for an audience. Bizarre that more of it wasn't filmed, producing "only" 700 hours of film, and the whole thing seems to have been done fairly quietly rather than a massive blaze of publicity.

Like Endemol's "Big Brother", on a city scale.

The abuse may also have become .. intrinsic to the project? The voyeuristic dominant seems to be a common type among film directors. He had a unique opportunity to control and film sexual interactions, and he may simply have decided to carry on with it because nobody stopped him.

From the "open letter" to the co-directors of the Berlin Film Festival:


"We are obligated to reserve our judgment of the project as a whole — but we are within our rights to discuss DAU. Natasha, which is competing as an individual title."

"At the time when Harvey Weinstein is found guilty of sex crimes, in an era marked by the struggle against the culture of violence and abuse in the film industry, does the Berlinale see any ethical issues in screening a film that (by its own authors’ stark admission) contains scenes of real psychological and physical violence against non-professional actors, as well as unsimulated sex between people under the influence of alcohol?

In the festival directors’ opinion, would such a film be possible to exhibit if it were created in the so-called First World — for instance, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, or the U.S. — and used on-screen talent from these countries?"

(emphasis mine: "a film that (by its own authors’ stark admission) contains scenes of real psychological and physical violence against non-professional actors")

The point of the article was to get you outraged, not informed. Such is polygon.

Along with the links in TFA, this might be helpful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DAU_(project)

The linked article doesn't provide a lot of information. However, the Guardian article it links to is a bit better, despite being much older.


The first paragraph seems to answer most of your questions:

> The cinematic behemoth was meant to unfold in a living, breathing three-acre recreation of postwar Moscow, built in the Ukrainian town of Kharkov. Cameras would follow hundreds of non-professional actors and thousands of extras day and night, as they lived life as if under the watchful eye of the KGB

I felt like that left more questions than answers as to how this played out exactly. Who chose to participate, what did hey know, how do they feel about their experience, why?

It seems like an extraordinary system like that should involve ... a bit of elaboration.

The article seems to question more than just the quality of the film but the treatment of the actors, and other topics, but doing so without understanding how such a strange film was actually made seems off...

Isnt that odd information to expect from what seems to be primary movie review?

Even if the article wants also criticise some abuse that happened, the whole "who chose to participate, what did hey know, how do they feel about their experience, why" still seems like too much information/expectation. Just getting interviews and verifying them would take awful lot of work for basically review.

Normally I don't watch a movie and think the people on screen are actually being abused.

I feel like they raised the issues that sort of ask those questions.... did abuse happen?

Then yeah you kinda should explore that fact or not.

They did not raised questions. They directly stated that abuses happened.

They did not went into bacstories and motivations of people who were actors or participants.

Raise questions, directly state it. I feel like either way they should explain that a little.

Looking at other article I'm not sure that it's a given fact or such. There are lots of vague articles but none seem particularly factual as far as what actually happened.

It seems strange to me to raise the question or say it happened but not actually address if it happened and the we say discuss how "well it's a movie review so I don't have to explain that".

These are good questions to ask, but I wouldn’t expect a movie reviewer to do investigative journalism and hunt down the people from this film. It’s not really in the job description.

Okay then why bring up the abuse from the production at all? Just review the film as-is? It sounds like not a very good film and the more interesting story is the story of its making, which this article brings up multiple times throughout.

Because it was reported by other journalists and it is relevant. It is part of what movie is as-is.

Interesting that auteur theory is being applied to the morality of the production of film - usually it's just for artistic content. In much the same way that it's not fair(?) to attribute the artisitic merits of a finished film which is touched by hundreds of people to a single person, there must have been dozens of people directly enabling or contributing to Khrzhanovsky's abusive behaviour.

This is quite the list of participants of the film (from Wikipedia): European Cinema Support Fund Eurimages; Arte France Cinema, Société Parisienne de Production; WDR/Arte, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Essential Filmproduktion; Swedish Film Institute, Film I Väst, Plattform Production; Hubert Bals Fund, AG Interfilm B.V.

I wonder how a young inexperienced director was able to access such backing with apparently so little oversight.

Yeah all the interesting questions about what actually happened seem to be a mystery in this article.

> I wonder how a young inexperienced director was able to access such backing with apparently so little oversight.

He is 45 and this is not the first movie he made. Got some prizes for previously too. Why did you assumed he is young or inexperienced?

Plus, the above mentioned institutions wont be on the set with you.

He was 30 when the project started, just 7 years in from his directorial debut, with just 2 films to his name.

As far as I know, it's very unusual to be raising large amounts of money and backing for a personal project under those circumstances.

Yes his film "4" had some critical acclaim in a few second circuit indy festivals, but his family tree probably held a lot of sway too.

(This is all pulled from Wikipedia, happy to be corrected)

Wasn't this the plot of Synecdoche? https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383028/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

There is structural similarity between the two, but in Synechdoche, Caden’s (the director) life is the explicit subject of the intradiagetic (in-narrative world) film. [0] The subject of the OP uses Soviet-era Russia and its surveillance state as the (um) synechdoche to stand in for the apparatus of the cinematic production.

To my mind, this project more closely resembles the disastrous subject of the documentary We Live In Public [1]

[0] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0383028

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0498329

Either an inspiration for, or inspired by, "Synecdoche, New York"

It troubles me that so much of this article is focused on how bad the films are. If the director had succeeded in making a masterpiece, would the conclusion have been that the ends (at least partially) justified the means? The article briefly mentions directors whose methods we now condem but whose work we still celebrate, but even then I felt like the message was "at least those directors produced great art."

I don’t really trust polygon for reviews of art films. Looking at some critic reviews, it seems like Natasha the first film in Dau has had some rave reviews. For instance the guardian gave it 5/5


But does the quality of the film matter? I don't think making great art justifies or excuses being a tyrannical/abusive artist, and feel that in general we should have consistent standards of acceptable behavior that is divorced from outputs.

Of course it matters... If art has any utility at all, then its impact must be factored into utilitarian calculations about suffering / opportunity costs and so on.

Whether the suffering that's alleged to have taken place in its production was 'worthwhile' is an open and complex question, and its a perfectly valid moral position to believe that it was not. But to suggest that behaviour should be 'divorced from outputs' is not a logically consistent position.

I think you are a bit quick to dismiss the entirety of deontology. Could you expand on what you mean when you say that deontological ethics ``is not a logically consistent position.''

There's a certain duality to the review where it alleges some terrible things happened, maybe, but then is more concerned about that in relation to saying the movie sucks.

It's like it is convenient to mention because they didn't think the movie was good.

The review seems as callous to the plight of the actors as it claims the director was....

That's the new thing. When a film doesn't agree with the reviewer's political biases, he never admits it. Instead, the movie is terrible and nobody should see it.

Remember Joker and the terrified reaction to it? It got panned in review after review. I watched it and it was fantastic. I immediately understood why it got bad reviews because it correctly pointed out how the media are the source of many problems in our society.

I feel like your two paragraphs are connected...

I can't help thinking I'm missing the point of your comment, but taking it at face value:

The second paragraph provides an example to illustrate the first paragraph.

The films are masterpieces. Highest ratings all over.

But SJW were outraged about the filming conditions years before already. It was a major production scandal, but the artists and backer sticked to it. Just an extremely long time.

You can watch them on the DAU website for a small fee. Corona killed the cinema prospects.

Terrible movies? Critics beg to differ. Highest rankings all over.


Zimbardo, interpreted by a wannabe Kubrick.

Are we really talking about whether a story that can only be told by traumatizing the hell out of unwilling people is a story still worth telling? Why assume that the story can only be told that way, rather than that it takes an incompetent hack of a director to decide that the best way to tell a story is to just shoot a million feet of film and figure out the rest in the edit suite? That seems to me at least as likely as the other.

I mean, it's not like we don't know how to tell stories about evil without behaving evilly ourselves. It doesn't take a working extermination camp to make a Sophie's Choice or a Schindler's List. Even if it did, would you think about excusing that?

Somehow I doubt that polygon.com is going is to provide any kind of truth about this movie. It's like asking PETA to review a shotgun.

What's Polygon's reputation? I posted this because I was looking for an update on what was happening with Dau, and this was the best article I could find with a 2020 dateline. I don't know anything about their site otherwise.

Wasn't this supposed to be about Lev Landau, famous for writing physics textbooks?

And, likely, lawsuits to follow. The degeneration of women, abuse of actors, physical intimidation are being exposed in many industries and vilified. This project next?

Most ambitious art stunt in history?

I would think something like the great pyramids would be a more ambitious art stunt.

Ok, we've downgraded its ambition in the title above.

Are tombs an art stunt?

those aren't just any tombs.

Call anything art and it becomes acceptable.

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