Contemporary World Cinema

Arrhythmia

Boris Khlebnikov

Arrhythmia 01

Russian filmmaker Boris Khlebnikov reflects on his homeland’s contemporary societal breakdown in this story of a professionally impeccable but personally irresponsible paramedic, whose already strained relationship with his doctor wife is pushed to the breaking point when the healthcare bureaucracy institutes new regulations favouring "efficiency" over compassionate care.

Even when faced with hostile colleagues, a known hypochondriac or a Jehovah's Witness refusing medical treatment, kind-hearted Oleg is a principled paramedic always striving to give attentive care to his patients during emergency response. But all is not rosy. Oleg's lacklustre approach to his relationship with wife Katya — an up-and-coming doctor in the emergency unit — combined with his irresponsible drinking and selfish choices, have created a perfect storm. Even the simplest interaction with Katya is now tense, and she has one foot out the door.

When a top-down system imposed by the administration starts to favour efficiency and statistics over individual care, Oleg must choose between a life of complacency and one of action. Under attack on all fronts and rushing from one emergency to another, Oleg's life becomes Sisyphean, as if he is constantly struggling to push a boulder up a slope. It takes almost losing his relationship for Oleg to realize that he has to fight for what he values.

A humanistic story about a couple hammering out their problems against a backdrop of serious social issues, Arrhythmia begs the question: is it easier to save others, or to save yourself?

For his sixth feature film, director Boris Khlebnikov has turned the mirror toward Russian societal breakdown. His ability to control actors and create real tension is finely honed. Khlebnikov masterfully reminds us that, even with the best intentions, something or someone can always get in the way… and perhaps most often it's ourselves.

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