Maidan is the movie about Ukrainian revolution by Sergey Loznitsa. It was first premiered at Cannes in May 2014, and will probably become the most widely seen documentary about the events that took place in Kyiv in winter 2013-14. What does the picture show?
The film consists of a number of long episodes shot by a static camera. Usually, a viewer is placed somewhere in crowds gathering on the Maidan, which provides a possibility of observing actions of different people around. It is up to audience to separate the constant movement of folks on the screen into main heroes and background ones, and arrive at own stories about them. At the same time, the camera’s placement, which seems to be random at the first glance, is often peculiar, as if the director wants to point out some actions: a man standing back to the fireworks while the whole crowd is watching them, a stick-armed protester coughing from tear gas, but refusing to receive the treatment from a field medic, a 4-year boy singing some patriotic songs on the stage, without having much understanding of what is going on. As Loznitsa told himself: “I was not intending to shoot a movie. My main objective was to document the event that was important not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as a whole”. So, the revolutionary events itself, treated by the careful director’s hand, gave the plot and its heroes to this film.
However, all placements, including an uninterrupted camera work, are situational. The collection of episodes that comprise Maidan provides a partial view of what happened in the center of Kyiv. A well-versed spectator knows about student-led protests for EU association, ambiguous actions of politicians, different stages of Maidan, uprisings in other cities, and many other sides of the revolution. They are simply absent here. Taking into account this absence, I would insist on calling the film a documentary un certain regard. Loznitsa finds his episodes on the Independence Square and its nearby streets, the episodes that may be of the highest art value, but they do not represent the whole Ukrainian revolution.
When treated this way, the value of the film increases. It is a story of constant physical actions of many people in the protesters’ camp. I would say that the director cuts out those participants who were an intelligent, political and financial force of the events, as well as marginal categories like the homeless. The heroes of his movie are patriotic workers that constantly occupy themselves with helping, but do not reflect much on the causes and effects. They live a full-blooded life on the Maidan, with its upsets and achievements, but they do not seem to be able to ask ‘why’. The work of setting goals is done for them by somebody who remains behind the scenes. On purpose or not, Loznitsa shows the folks who did the revolution, rather then those ones who created it.
For me, the issue of an average Ukrainian living on the Maidan as if in their natural habitat is central in the movie. While being in this unordinary environment, the people on the screen do not feel awkward. Answering why they behave this way and how this historical moment of their behaviour fits into the general history of Ukraine is a key to further intellectual development of the nation. A viewer should keep in mind that this people has an excellent track record of revolutions and uprisings, but 23 years of Ukrainian independence is just one day in comparison to the eternity of 1000 years under the neighboring states. In this regard, the tragic final of the film leaves the main question open for its heroes, as among the variety of claims sounding from the stage on the Independence Square, the key line remains missing: Maidan – never again.