A fitfully vile bit of
arty sleaze that fits in well with
high-minded sickies like
VIVA LA MUERTE and
SALO with its abundance of gore,
scatology and general unpleasantness.
This oft-banned Russian film (original title: ZELYONYY
SLONIK) hails from 1999. Its director was Svetlana Baskova, a staunchly
underground filmmaker known for provocative feminist-minded fare like
FIVE BOTTLES OF VODKA, THE HEAD and COKKI THE RUNNING DOCTOR. THE GREEN
ELEPHANT, which has never been released in the U.S. (although a
subtitled copy can be found on YouTube), was her second feature, and
surely her magnum opus.
Two military officers, one a colonel and the other a
subordinate, carry on an expletive-filled chat inside an unidentified
military detention center. The talk naturally centers around violence,
alcohol and sex, and grows increasingly heated. Before long the roles
are reversed and the subordinate begins physically abusing his superior.
Yet their respective ranks reassert themselves, and the subordinate is
forced to clean a filthy toilet with a fork(?).
The scatological angle is continued when the colonel
takes a dump and then smears the results on his torso. Having apparently
gone completely mad, he offers the remaining excrement to his cellmate,
but the latter is understandably put off by the request.
Two more men, both military superiors, are called into
the cell. One of them puts the subordinate to work cleaning up the mess
made by the colonel, while the latter is sternly lectured about the
error of his ways.
More insanity follows, including sodomy, asphyxiation,
piss drinking, throat ripping and intestine pulling, as the lunacy
infecting the colonel spreads to his companions and the film turns into
an outrageously gory free-for-all.
That director Svetlana Baskova was seeking to make some
kind of statement about male aggression--Russian male aggression
in particular--is evident in the almost laughably profane dialogue,
which often sounds like a parody of macho guy talk (terms like “faggot”
and “bitch” are freely utilized).
The proceedings are marked by handheld camerawork that
constantly weaves and wobbles, apparently to jazz up the cramped setting
and overabundance of dialogue. At times the effect is interesting, but
for the most part the spastic camerawork feels desperate and amateurish;
much of the action plays out in wide shots when close-ups would have
been preferable, and vice-versa. The heavy metal guitar riffs that
frequently fill the soundtrack further enhance the amateurish air (such
tunes being the preferred soundtrack of no-budget splatter films in the
Also featured is extensive black and white footage of
unrelated characters going about their day-to-day business intercut with
the main action, possibly to lend the highly contained proceedings a
sense of universality. But what precisely is the reason for all the
vileness? It doesn’t seem to serve any dramatic purpose other than to
maintain interest in a film that would otherwise be a completely inert
THE GREEN ELEPHANT (ZELYONYY SLONIK)
Director: Svetlana Baskova
Producer: Svetlana Baskova, Oleg Mavromatti
Screenplay: Svetlana Baskova
Cast: Vladimir Epifantsev, Aleksandr Maslaev, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Sergei