Breaking the rules of ordinary – a review of Outlaw

Review by Līga Požarska, Young Tallints participant

The rebellious Russian LGBT movie Outlaw recently had its World Premiere at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. 

First-time Russian director and screenwriter Ksenia Ratushnaya brings a story about closeted high schooler Nikita (Viktor Tarasenko) and his object of affection – the most popular and badass guy in school (Gleb Kalyuzhnyy). 

There are two other extraordinary duos in the film – an eccentric and sadistic couple, consisting of a beautifully twisted blond girl Outlaw (Liza Kashintseva) and a marvellously strange, and sometimes chained, redheaded man. In addition, we also follow a bitter love story between a Soviet general and a transgender cabaret dancer, set in the 80s. All these plots collide together in the ambitious Ratushnaya’s debut feature. 

Outlaw is a real treat for the eyes. The characters truly resemble beautiful animals, which is the term Outlaw used to describe her and those like her. It can be hard to take the eyes off them for they were gracious and shiny, repugnant and awkward. Their movements and conversations are magnetizing and grotesque. 

All the costumes of the high school crowd, the twisted duo and the general-cabaret performer seemed carefully selected, giving an extra thought even to the tiniest detail. These are the people you look back on when spotting them in public. In a way Outlaw is also like that – there might be a need to point fingers and silently whisper behind its back, but, in the end, the shock turns out to be an amazement.

However, sometimes this eye candy might feel bit dazzling and flashy because of the fast-cut editing made by Alexandra Koroleva and the claustrophobically close and shaky camera held in Gevorg Markosyan’s hands. It all works well for the flow and the ever-growing tension. The spectator is faced with the most nuanced facial expressions and body movements of the Outlaw’s cast (extreme zooms, a shaky camera registering every move). Together with the dynamic rhythm of editing, this viewing experience is like a fast speed train, where the growing pace makes it impossible to leave this crazy-ride-of-a-film. 

Ratushnaya has admitted to being a passionate film buff and has drawn inspiration from such films as Enter The Void, Nocturnal Animals and others. Ties to Fight Club are especially transparent with underground orgies similar to the underground brutality portrayed in David Fincher’s classic. Moreover, the alpha male’s dog’s name is Durden. 

Outlaw pays a great deal of attention to sexuality, sexual expression and sexual tension. In many ways it is a film about freedom and the right to love. Numerous LGBT films can be reduced to „at the end it’s a story about love” statement. In this case, it is not so easy – after all, we need to bear in mind that we are dealing with Putin’s Russia and its homophobic policies. An anti-gay propaganda law, dating from 2013, made matters worse. Just this year a sadistic witch-hunt brutally ended the lives of a social activist Yelena Grigoryeva and other LGBT members. Outlaw has also gone a long and difficult path to even be released in such a drastic censorship situation. 






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