Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Gogol: Season 1 – review

Director: Egor Baranov

First aired: 2019

Contains spoilers

I reviewed the film Gogol: Viy last year. The series of films that Baranov was producing was unusual as the aim was to release them and then cut them into a TV series comprised of a season of eight episodes. This happened and, as luck would have it, Amazon hosted the series, in Russian with English subs.

The parts of the series that came from the Viy release were identical as far as I could tell – nothing seemed cut for the TV market – and the whole piece worked in terms of explaining aspects that were to do with the overriding arc.

It is that overriding arc that has led to the review of the series as a whole. Nikolai Gogol (Alexander Petrov) is an aspiring writer with lack of confidence in his own work – indeed we see him buy the copies of one of his own books (released under a pseudonym) in order that he might burn the books (and spare the world). He is also working as a clerk for the secret police but has an unfortunate habit of having fits at crime scenes (during which he has visions that he transcribes through automatic writing). An inspector – Guro – realises the value of the visions and quickly catches a murderer by interpreting them and following them.

killing the peasant girl
Guro is called out of St Petersburg to investigate a murder in a small village and Gogol goes with him. We have seen the murder and it is the murder – or manner of it – that leads to the review. Two Cossacks are by a campfire when a third arrives with a naked girl he has kidnapped. Before they can do anything to her a hooded horseman appears and kills them – the hood of the horseman’s outfit is blackness (and, we discover later, empty) and horns seem to emerge from their back. The horseman kills the girl by slitting her throat and then her blood is sucked from her body, flowing supernaturally into the hood.

the horseman
When the investigators arrive, they discover this is actually the third killing. The murders continue and Guro is missing, presumed killed. Gogol takes it on himself to become the investigator and finish the other man’s work. He deduces that the horseman kills on feast days and it is some form of ritual. Guro has left a note that indicates that there will be 12 plus 1 victims. At the end of the series we discover this is 12 maidens and 1 person who has been resurrected.

syphon from a victim
The reason for the killings is that the horseman has been cursed. They are immortal – but to maintain that immortality and their vitality they must perform this blood ritual every thirty years. So we have maintaining their life through a ritual based on death and absorbing (as we see no mouth) the blood of the victim. I also mentioned, in the Viy review, the presence of a water nymph, Oksana (Julia Frantz). Having thought about it there is a good chance that she is actually a rusalka but she does nothing vampiric that we see. That said she is very jealous of Gogol’s love for the married Lisa (Taisiya Vilkova).

Alexander Petrov as Gogol
This was a really enjoyable series, with a nice dark edge to the gothic storytelling. The performances are consistently strong and Petrov is especially good as the conflicted writer – he even looks like Gogol if the pictures of the real-life writer are anything to go by. There is a strange (and yet entertaining) moment when one of the episodes ends and cuts into a short, set in a modern day theatre where Viy is being staged. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

No comments: