This coming-of-age film tells the story of Russia’s alienated youth

29 October 2019

An orgy, a baptism, and a hip granny encouraging her teen grandson to use a potion which should solve his fake erectile dysfunction. This forms the eclectic universe of the coming-of-age Russian film Acid. Starting off as a child actor, the film’s 27-year-old director, Alexander Gorchilin, has always known that he wanted to be behind the camera. But after one of his friends committed suicide at a party a few years ago, he realised just how lost and alienated his generation truly feels. His friend’s story inspired him to make his directorial debut. In this Q&A, The Calvert Journal spoke to Gorchillin about his film, night clubs, masculinity, and intergenerational relationships ahead of the first screening of Acid in London.

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The film starts with a striking scene: a naked young man running around a toilet seat that’s been placed in the middle of a living room saying “I miss you” as he’s chased and bullied by two other young men. Why did you choose to start the film with this scene?

This scene inspired the whole film. Someone I knew ended his life in this way. This is the starting point – it’s about how today’s young people can’t handle reality. He’s finding it all so confusing and hard, that he misses everyone, even people who are next to him. All of the characters in this film are in this character, he’s like a concentrate, and he jumps off the building.

After this scene, the film stops being about pills and parties and ends up focusing on [spoiler alert] an actual bottle of acid and an alienated kid. Why did you go about the story in this way, and why does the film revolve around Sasha in the end?

Sasha is the archetype of today’s young person – he is full of desires but lacks the willpower, means, and strength to change something. The way I see my generation is that we see a lot and think a lot and watch others but we lack the inner strength to do something about it. We wander around, amoeba-like, not doing anything, only reflecting.

I usually spend a lot of time at the theatre surrounded by artists whose lives are very full. I’ve known that I wanted to act since I was a child. But researching this film, I went to night clubs and parties and I met many smart, talented, wonderful young people who don’t do much with their lives. If they study, they don’t enjoy their studies. If they work, they don’t like their work. These are people who haven’t found themselves in this life – not because they’re bad but because life hasn’t given them the conditions to get interested in it. That’s why they take drugs and lead directionless lives.

A running theme throughout the film seems to be masculinity…

I don’t live by the categories of femininity or masculinity; I don’t really know what masculinity means in the 21st century. To speak about masculinity seriously seems vulgar to me. What does it mean? This is a film about when your own personality and individuality starts, what it means to be a grown up, when you start making decisions on your own.

Sasha is the archetype of today’s young person – he is full of desires but lacks the willpower, means, and strength to change something

But it’s true that Sasha’s big complex is that he is not a decision-maker, that he’s not masculine enough. He can’t answer for something himself, he just waits for some kind of resolution. He always has this feeling that someone is doing something for him. He is a person who can’t face this life. He’s not fit for it. He has a sense of safety because his mum will give him money, his granny will feed him, his girlfriend will fuck him. And he just has to go from point A to B and all of this will happen.

Why is the film dedicated to the parents of the kids in the film?

This is an ironic dedication. The young people in the film are the products of their parents, who raised them. We are everything that our parents gave us, whether they have been present in, or absent from, our lives.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a music video on cruelty. But, together with the scriptwriter of Acid, I’m also thinking about a film on envy – how it relates to progress or regress, how we live with these feelings. I think envy generates progress. We all envy each other, no matter how smart, talented, kind or successful we are.

Acid is screening at the Barbican on 30 October. Grab your tickets here.

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