Yevgeny Yufit and Vladimir Maslov’s Silver Heads is among the most striking works of Necrorealism—a movement in the Soviet and Russian nonconformist cinema and art of the 1980s and 1990s that focused on the aesthetics of death and decay.
In Silver Heads, a group of scientists go into the woods to conduct a secret experiment in crossbreeding a human with a tree. Their ambition is to create a ‘humantree’ that would be long-living, low maintenance, and resistant to an aggressive environment. The scientists are planning to conduct the experiment on themselves. However, contrary to their expectation, the forest they have chosen is not completely deserted. Along with the forest warden and his family, it is populated by strange creatures left in the woods after another experiment.
Necrorealism developed among the New Artists in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in the early 1980s. Life under the disintegrating Soviet regime and its dying ideology inspired necrorealists to develop a dark absurdist aesthetic that informed their actions (many members performed under provocative stage names, such as Deadman, Moron, Wormfood), photography, painting, musical performances—and films by one of the founding members of the movement Yevgeny Yufit (1961-2016). Aestheticizing and commenting on the clichés of socialist realism, Yufit’s pictures combined dark humor with references to silent film and works by Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and other masters of ‘existential film’.
‘A Soviet experiment’ was among the central motifs in necrorealist aesthetics, and Silver Heads became the first film in a trilogy about mad experiments and mad scientists, which also include Yufit’s Killed by Lightning (2002) and his last feature film Bipedalism (2005).
The screening will follow Olesya Turkina’s lecture on Necrorealism during the last session of the Local Histories of Art conference cycle, organized for Garage Triennial of Russian Contemporary Art.
Directors Yevgeny Yufit, Vladimir Maslov. Russia, 1999. 82 min.