The Apocalypse of the Modern
This chapter reviews the film Mournful Insensitivity (1983). Mournful Insensitivity is a film that is formally wild: both farcical and sombre, detached and brilliant, full of non-sequiturs and sibylline imagery. Based on George Bernard Shaw's 1919 play Heartbreak House, the film tackles the ideals of early twentieth-century socialism. Sokurov would use his feature film as a covert commentary on contemporary times with a narrative taking place in the early twentieth century. Mournful Insensitivity is an obituary of the modern that draws both on this early twentieth-century tradition and on postmodernism. Much as Shaw treated the petty mercantilism of British society in the 1910s in Heartbreak House, Sokurov denounces the spirit of idleness and dereliction which characterized the Soviet Union of the early 1980s. The paradoxical, strangely conflicting winds of resilient hope and melancholic despair blow through the whole enterprise of Mournful Insensitivity.
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