Farewell (2009)

The thing about Farewell is that it is a beautiful movie with an annoying lack of substance.

It ticks so many boxes that it should be one of those films that lingers on within me long after the credits have rolled. Russian setting, check. Political espionage, check. French made, check. Emir Kusturica, Guillaume Canet and Willem Dafoe all in the one film, triple check! And yet…

It is as if, Grigoriev (Kusturica) decides, just like that, to risk the very real and immediate possibility of physical harm to himself and his family by supplying the West with sensitive information. His back story consists of a few brief allusions to his love of French culture (presumably picked up during a previous posting there) and that is pretty much all. Christain Carion does not attempt to make us understand why this man took the risks (enormous ones at that) that he did and this, for me, is unforgivable.

That said, on the plus side, Jean-Michel Simonet’s cinematography pays homage to the fatally beautiful Russian setting in a way that delighted my eyes. The wintery landscapes that inhabited many of the scenes speak of a Russia that is profoundly home to the character of Grigoriev whilst at the same time exuding hostility. It is both friend and foe.