74th Cannes Film Festival: “Olga” Review
To this day, Ukraine pays for the Euromaidan protest and the Revolution of Dignity that took place in November of 2013 and February of 2014, respectively. Both ended with blood, lowering the standard of living of Ukrainian citizens and the loss of a part of the country’s territory. The first revolt began when President Viktor Yanukovych postponed the signing of the association agreement with the European Union. Although both revolutions managed to overthrow the corrupt authorities, it also put Kiev directly on the path of the aggressor’s aspirations – Russia.
In 2013, Kiev, Olga (Anastasia Budiashkina), a 15-year-old ambitious gymnast, lives with her mother, an investigative journalist. While Olga trains hard, her mother writes about the corruption that touches the highest ground of the Ukrainian government. After an attempt on their lives, Olga is sent to Switzerland, her late father’s country, to join the Swiss team and train for the European Championship in preparation for the Olympics.
Image © Olga
Olga’s training is disrupted by the news that Kiev is being flooded with protests against President Yanukovych. And it gets more troubling when she learns that her mother is involved in reporting it, putting her own life at risk. Olga is torn between her passion for sport and “obligation” towards her country. While her only connection to Kiev is via Skype video calls, her already strained relationship with her mother begins to deteriorate even more. In addition, she has trouble befriending her teammates; the tension grows and makes the teenager anxious and wary. Nevertheless, it all changes when she learns that her mother got seriously injured during the Euromaidan protests. Will Olga leave Switzerland and her dreams behind to join her mother in the fight for a better Ukraine?
Image © Olga
Directed by Elie Grappe and written in collaboration with Raphaëlle Desplechin, Olga is a heart-rending story that centres around the search for a sense of belonging, a place that one could call home. It is a personal struggle of a young athlete who is torn between her dreams and loyalty to her motherland. Anastasia Budiashkina’s ability in achieving an authentic and believable performance can only be praised and revered by the viewers [let’s not forget, Anastasia is a professional gymnast, not an actress]. The audience can laugh and cry along with the protagonist throughout the film, and when the film ends, one wonders what would have happened if she chose differently?
Image © Olga
While Anastasia’s performance is essential, the creative cinematographic decisions are the key in enlightening the other themes of the film: the athletes, their emotional connection to the sport, and the struggle of the Ukrainian people. Lucie Baudinaud’s camera work is excellent. Her usage of medium close-ups is spotless, and she understands how to use them in the most effective way possible, especially when she captures the gymnasts in action. There is no denial that when cinematographers move in to a close-up, they will get a more compelling reaction from the viewer. Suzana Pedro’s editing is good; the way she puts the whole film together introduces us to everything the audience needs to know about Olga and her background story. The live footage from the Euromaidan protests also added tension and turned the film into an even more realistic and moving feature.
Image © Olga
With short and emotionally charged dialogues as well as easy-going conversations, Olga is an interesting viewing filled with stunning performances from the gymnasts. It is a note-worthy production in its own right and beautifully concentrates on a young athlete’s passion.
Written by Maggie Gogler
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