LFF 2020 ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ Review: Enlightenment Through Massage

Zhenia (Alex Ugtoff) is a massage therapist and hypnotist. His clients all live in a gated middle class community in Poland. The impact of his services on the individual is profound, but the impact he has on the small community is complicated. As his reputation becomes messianic, we wonder if Zhenia really can save these people and how far he may go to try.

The film is absolutely made by Alex Ugtoff’s instantly iconic performance as Zhenia. His look, his manner and his voice feel fully formed, as if they’d always existed. He’s resembles an Eastern European Patrick Swayze with the grace of a ballerina. The character needs to be immediately disarming, and Ugtoff makes you feel why. Yet Zhenia’s life has also been shaped by tragedy. He was born in Pripyat seven years before the Chernobyl Disaster. The impact of this event on his life is explored throughout the film.

In startling flashbacks that resemble Tarkovsky sequences we see Zhenia’s troubled past as a boy. The visions are fantastical and afford directors Małgorzata Szumowsk and Michał Englert to indulge in gorgeously abstract imagery. Similarly as Zhenia hypnotises his subjects they may find themselves transported to a snowy forest where they will encounter their young selves or long lost relatives. These are beautifully shot, rich sequences.

Although a black comedy and a very funny one at that, the film beautifully articulates the power of what Zhenia represents. As a Russian speaking man in Poland he is an outsider but a very softly spoken and well mannered outsider, who puts the locals at ease. He therefore represents a relief from the mundane suburban lives they’ve constructed around themselves like the identical houses they all inhabit.

Each of Zhenia’s clients is unhappy in a different way. Lonely, put-upon or just bored, all of them long for some point in their past where things were simpler. Zhenia affords them the chance to ignore the expectations that trap them and just appreciate the simple beauty of being alive. Of course this feeling proves to be addictive and leads to some very negative feelings amongst the clients. They become jealous of each other and relatives of the clients become suspicious of his strange ways. Simultaneously a cult and an opposition start to form around the unusual man.

The humour is for the most part very dry. Gently satirising Zhenia’s clients and their lifestyles. Lines like “My son is very independent. He can order Uber Eats on his own” are amusingly scattered throughout. There’s also a great deal of character comedy. One of the families . However the film isn’t above a sudden cut to Zhenia massaging a farting dog or being caught dancing around in his tight black massage gear.

Never Gonna Snow Again is a very impressive black comedy that creatively explores what a modern saviour may look like, how he may feel about this role and the complications that would arise from the existence of such an individual. In this way, it’s a more provocative and engaging exploration of extraordinary powers than anything Zak Snyder has done. The titular snow represents the innocence and wonder than mankind may snuff out from the world. This film explores that sense of wonder and the place it can still have in our world.

Five Stars

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