Duska Jos Stelling

Duska Jos Stelling
Whether interpreted as a political commentary on the Western treatment of Russia, a fable examining the inevitability of time and lost dreams, or as a comic tale of an unwanted guest, Dutch film Duska has a little something for everyone. It is neither obvious as a comedy — never reaching for guffaws, as all existing peculiarities within the film have meaning — nor heavy-handed on the dramatic front. Instead, it settles in as a thought provoking tragicomedy.

Within a film being screened at a Russian film festival, a child named Duska is born on a public bus, which inspires the name attributed to a friendly Russian stranger (Sergei Makovetsky) by a carefree film critic named Bob (Gene Bervoets). This brief meeting leads to an unwelcome knock on Bob's door months later, just as he reaches out for the unattainable dream of writing a screenplay of his own and winning over a beautiful and much younger movie theatre cashier (Sylvia Hoeks).

Speaking different languages, Bob is unable to get rid of Duska despite many overt, and occasionally harsh, travails. While this Russian guest is never directly obtrusive, he interferes with Bob's last-ditch efforts to fulfil the many goals in life he has yet to achieve.

At its core, the film is a meditation on the subconscious, and the pain of regretting having let opportunities, dreams and possibilities pass by with little more than a nod as they fade away into the landscape. This is an affliction that is unavoidable and as such, proves identifiable and touching, especially given Duska's representation of settling down and giving up on youthful larks. Duska may not be the ideal companion, or representation of a life of accumulated efforts, but he's there when no one else is.

On a comic level, Duska could also be interpreted as an elaborate version of The Cat Came Back, if the cat was a large Russian man who ate a lot and put too much sugar in his coffee. (Vagrant)