The spiritual imprisonment of a young boy and the inexorable narrowing of his thinking highlights the often insidious impact of faith on our lives...
For his fourth feature film, following Playing the Victim (2006), Yuri's Day (2008) and Betrayal (2012), Kirill Serebrennikov has chosen to portray the power with which the practice of a religion, when pushed to extremes, can isolate its devotees.
"Art asks questions. Religion imposes answers. The film shows that it can be a form of manipulation, used by a young man to trick those around him", explains the filmmaker.
"Religion is a shady, dogmatic force that spreads obscurantism."
Thanks to long sequence shots, The Student tells the story of the slow shift towards religious obscurantism by Veniamin, a high-school student in Kaliningrad in the grip of a profound mystical crisis. While the teenager leaves his parents and friends feeling totally dismayed as he only swears by the Scriptures, Elena, his biology teacher, decides to provoke him on his own ground to try and bring him to reason.
Kirill Serebrennikov is very critical of the omnipotence of religion in his country, calling it "the second official ideology", and has included an extract of music by Laibach at the beginning of his feature film. Laibach is a band whose music has been banned from being played on Russian radio stations because it is considered to be "aggressive, potentially leading to evil thoughts". Religion "controls everyone's brains. It's a shady, dogmatic force that spreads obscurantism", concludes the filmmaker, whose film is adapted from a play by Marius von Mayenburg about ambiguity in the Bible.