The Light Thief (Svet-Ake) (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/07/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

The Light Thief has its moments and features a strong central performance from Aktan Arym Kubat, but it's also frustratingly patchy and suffers from an uneven tone.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Aktan Arym Kubat, The Light Thief is set in Kok-Moinok, a modern day village in Kyrgyzstan, where there's an uneasy mix of twenty first century intrusions and old fashioned customs. Aktan Arym Kubat stars as Svet-ake, nick-named Mr Light, a wily electrician who's frequently in trouble with the authorities for helping his fellow villagers get free electricity.

The episodic plot involves Svet-ake becoming involved with corrupt local politician Bekzat (Askat Sulaimanov), who initially secures Mr Light's allegiance by promising to build a wind farm for the village. Meanwhile, Svet-ake longs for a son instead of his four lively daughters and drunkenly asks his best friend Mansur (Stanbek Toichubaev) to impregnate his wife, Bermet (Taalaikan Abazova).

The Good
Aktan Arym Kubat is superb as the cheeky electrician, providing a Robin Hood-like service to “only those who can't afford to pay”, which is basically everyone. There's also strong support from Taalaikan Abazova (and the four adorable children playing their daughters), while Askat Sulaimanov is suitably sleazy as Bekzat.

The film is strikingly shot, with crisp cinematography from Hasan Kydraliyev and Kubat orchestrates several memorable scenes, both surreal (the villagers reviving Mr Light from an electric shock by quickly burying him up to his neck in the ground – weirdly, it works, though maybe don't try that at home) and disturbing (“We present to you an erotic spectacular entitled Grab Your Camel ...”)

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the structure is frustratingly patchy and episodic throughout (most of the film turns out to be a flashback, or so it appears), so the film lurches from scene to scene with very little sense of narrative progression. For example, Mr Light shows up out of nowhere at what seems to be a game of dead goat polo and causes a fuss, though we have no idea why or what he wants.

In addition, the film's tone veers wildly from dark, depressing drama to knockabout comedy to absurd surrealism (to say nothing of the nudity and rutting donkey sequences) and it never really gels together in a satisfactory fashion.

Worth seeing?
The Light Thief is an unusual Kyrgyz drama with some striking and memorable scenes, but it's ultimately too patchy and uneven and fails to connect on an emotional level.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 15:49

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