Cinematryoshka: a day on the film set of "Moscow Never Sleeps"

“Moscow Never Sleeps” is a dramatic movie about the hidden ties that bind us all. It tells the store of 5 characters who are connected to one another in the most incredible way. Johnny O’Reilly, an Irishman living in Moscow, strives in his film to show the capital’s reality the way it is, in spite of stereotypes and prejudices. In the director’s opinion, people in the West don’t know enough about Russia, but he plans to fix that.

It all started in the 1990s: Johnny O'Reilly studied Russian at university and came here for the first time in 1993. After graduation he worked as a journalist in Dublin and Moscow, before going to New York to study to be a filmmaker. His short film, The Terms, won 21 awards at international festivals and was included in the Oscars short list in 2003. Since 2006, he has been living in Moscow. "A lot of people ask why I live here. ‘You could live anywhere: in Europe or somewhere else. Why Russia?’ Russia inspires me. I think that Russians have a huge soul. There are a lot of interesting things in the personal stories from their lives from the point of view of film and drama. Moscow inspires me. I’ve met a lot of interesting people who have told me about their lives. Let’s say that this was the first step." To understand what exactly drew the Irishman to the Russian capital, we decided to set off to his film set and spend a day with the crew of the film “Moscow Never Sleeps”.

On that day, filming took place in one of the partially abandoned buildings in a quiet, residential neighborhood of Moscow (near the Botanic Garden metro station). The old building—constructed in the 1920s or 30s, and which, it seems, should have been demolished a long time ago—was occupied by minibuses with filming equipment. In the dark, damp entryway, under the ashen remains of stucco and littered with tasteless graffiti, rations were set up for members of the film crew.

As the director recalls, the apartment in which shooting took place looked like an ugly cement box a week before, complete with tattered wallpaper and destroyed windowsills. In a matter of days, decorators turned it into a typical Moscow apartment and filled it with all kinds of relics of Soviet design whose abundance would make any museum green with envy. There were rugs, posters, dusty wardrobes with mirrors, photographs, and a lot of other precious junk that hadn’t been used in a long time, but they just couldn’t throw it out.

After an initial inspection of the location, all curious by-standers were sent to the director’s room. Then entered the actor Mikhail Efremov, who has acquired a certain fame in recent years thanks to the Citizen Poet project. Lights. Camera. Action.

For the director Moscow is more than just the background. It’s an important part of the movie, both visually and thematically. They filmed a lot on streets with crowds of people: in the metro, at train stations... International viewers really feel the city’s atmosphere and that’s very important for the film. And politics? "I don’t put politics on display in the movie. I, myself, am interested in politics, of course. I have my own opinion. But if I put that into the movie, politics will become its story,"- says O'Reilly. "I know that not much is known about Russia in the West. All information revolves around Putin, corruption, politics, as if nothing else is going on."

Shooting for the film has come to an end at the moment and now work on editing the picture is underway at the famous post-production studio, Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin. The film’s concept was received positively by critics and producers even at the pre-production state and now there’s no doubt that the movie can expect considerable festival distribution. Its creators reported that the film is planned to be displayed at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. "I more or less understand what international film markets are expecting. There are very few movies that are equally well-known both in Russia and abroad. I’d like this movie to be the first of that kind." The movie’s Moscow premiere is planned for fall 2014. 

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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