Fatal Attraction of the Russians

The motion picture aliens are back. This time, however, missing their usual target, landing nowhere near Hollywood. Is this enough to get your attraction?

How refreshing to see an alien spaceship landing so far from US soil, straight into the high-rises of a working-class neighbourhood in Moscow! For Europeans who might feel left behind with regard to invading extraterrestrials, the aliens’ new target in the latest Fedor Bondarchuk film Attraction, gives hope that, after all, Europe (or Russia) matters.

Attraction does not hesitate to disclose its genres. The opening scene, of an eye-shaped spaceship on the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, reveals the film to be a science fiction. Yet, straight away, the film moves on to capture urban Russia, focusing on teenagers and their interpersonal relationships, changing into a coming-of-age drama. Although this sudden shift does not come smoothly, nor does it hinder the storyline. As the spaceship crashes to earth, killing some people, genres intertwine and continue to do so as the plot unfolds, making Attraction an action love-story sci-fi blockbuster.

The arrival of the extraterrestrials causes confusion, fear and violence among the locals, but the Russian military, piloted by General Lebedev (Oleg Menshikov), decides to wait and observe. On the other hand, civilian youths are not as patient, and take action. Their mission, though lacking a clear aim, is led by Lebedev’s daughter Yulya (Irina Starshenbaum), enraged by her best friend’s death in the landing, and Yulya’s boyfriend Artyom (Alexander Petrov) and his gang. However, the situation is complicated by characters’ different perceptions and interpretations of the events that will occur, as well as strong feelings that go hand in hand with the unexpected arrival. Attraction’s strength relies largely on in-depth developed characters, each of whom is visibly affected by the unusual situation, and whose personalities are gradually transformed as the storyline evolves.

Attraction has its ups and downs. Weaknesses are mostly connected to unexplained or illogical plot points, such as when Yulya makes contact with an alien (Rinal Mukhametov), causing a transfer of genetic material that neither changes her nor is mentioned thereafter. Despite various similar examples and a sometimes clumsy and naive narrative, Bondarchuk manages to sustain suspense throughout the film.  This is mostly achieved with a constantly action-packed mise-en-scène, whose perfect representative can be seen in the very beginning, when a passionate sex scene is mixed with images of the spaceship, on fire, swiping the tops of buildings.

attraction fedor bondarchuk

Close encounters.

However, not everything in Attraction is about action. Although some might read the intrusion of the aliens as an allegory on the current and seemingly never ending worldwide immigration crisis, it rather looks like Bondarchuk’s primary intention was to indicate the drawbacks of humankind, as there are numerous instances highlighting malicious human behaviour — lacking in empathy, love, and generosity — mostly by showing good aliens against bad humans. Even though such moments are repeatedly overstated (most often with songs whose lyrics describe the exact situation happening in the film, such as “lalala we are not alone”), they should be praised for their good intention if nothing else.

When dealing with Mukhametov’s humanoid alien’s attempts to fit into society, Attraction is unexpectedly amusing, resembling a sitcom, while also reflecting on what defines humanity. Even though the film’s message recalls much of the South Park episode ‘Pinewood Derby’, where the earth gets banned from the rest of the universe for its inhabitants’ unconscious and harmful acts, and although it feels like something already seen for so many times, it can be taken as a welcome reminder of the lesson that we, humans, apparently still have to learn.

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