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SHEFFIELD DOC FEST 2022

Review: Infinity According to Florian

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- Capitalism is a form of colonisation that can be tamed by a maverick like late architect and artist Florian Yuriev, says Oleksiy Radynski in this documentary about his final battle

Review: Infinity According to Florian

Infinity: According to Florian by Oleksiy Radynski started its festival odyssey this year at International Film Festival Rotterdam, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Part of the special Ukrainian focus at Sheffield DocFest, the film focuses on themes only seemingly detached from the current political situation in its home country. Clutching his camera, Radynski follows maverick and visionary artist Florian Yuriev, who, at the time of shooting, was in his late eighties and was setting out on a mission to preserve his legacy.

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Yuriev, who passed away two years after the events shown in this documentary, was an important figure on the Ukrainian architectural scene. He is probably best known for designing the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific and Technical Expertise, more commonly known as Kyiv’s UFO or Flying Saucer, a name that gives you a good idea of what this building actually looks like. Conceived in the mid-1960s and erected in 1970, the UFO was an homage to the cosmos and space travel, but also to an understanding of the nature of the universe itself.

The Flying Saucer, which was originally intended as a music hall, was developed from Yuriev’s original theory of “the music of colour”. As Radynski’s documentary explains, Yuriev created his own language, and the main thing he strived for was to express his artistic vision in line with how the universe was constructed. Drawing inspiration from the northern lights and the concept of infinity, Yuriev painted, composed and wrote poems.

When the camera is trained on him, his biggest – in the literal sense – legacy is under threat. The developers of a massive shopping mall wish to swallow up the Flying Saucer and make it part of its commercial area. But Yuriev, who was raised at a time when private business and commerce were persecuted by the country, and who spent decades drifting through the realm of idealism and ideas, wages a campaign to preserve his building.

Initially perceived as old and irrelevant by big business and local clerks, Yuriev proves he is a force to be reckoned with. He explains how architecture has become just another tool for capitalism, and how buildings express nothing other than man’s ego – one of the wealthy investors claims he wants to erect the biggest building in Kyiv, with size being his only goal. The film presents this conflict between old and new as an ideological battle between art and mindless capitalism. Architecture can be either an expression of visionary plans or a way to colonise a land and make it nothing more than a giant marketplace – with highly disturbing consequences. In one of the scenes, Yuriev drives through the flooded streets of Kyiv, which only serves to prove his point: after heavy rain, water has no way of seeping away, so it angrily flows through concrete streets and across pavements. As Yuriev battles with the “enemy” shrouded in steel, glass and literally tons of cement, it’s difficult not to think about the current situation in Ukraine. Greed, evil and violence can take many forms, not just that of guns and tanks.

Infinity: According to Florian was produced by Lyuba Knorozok and Clementine Engler. Austria’s filmdelights is in charge of its sales.

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