Four years in the making, 4, the debut feature film by Ilya Khrzhanovsky (the son of one of Russia's greatest living animators) has been shown out of competition at the Venice International Film Festival 2004 and won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2005. Yet it has still not been released in Russia because of objections from the Ministry of Culture (reportedly for its abundance of "non-normative language and disgusting scenes") and the government's demand that 40 minutes be cut from the film. A Russian premiere has now been tentatively scheduled for April. According to one of the film's heroes, "simply Volodia"-a piano tuner who passes himself off as a genetic engineer during the long opening sequence and is later arrested, sent to a penal colony, and at the end of the film shipped off to the Chechen war as part of a penal battalion-"four" is the concealed and
mysterious number that rules the universe. Fours run though 4: the four dogs of the opening scene, the four drills that scare them away, the four snow removal trucks, the four people in the bar's opening sequence (counting the sleeping bartender), the "four" that results from the cloning of twins, the four "round [cloned] piglets," the four dolls with faces made from chewed bread that survive the death of one of four sisters. Like virtually everyone else in the film, the "three sisters" (just one of scriptwriter Vladimir Sorokin's cinematic allusions to Chekhov) who arrive in an impoverished and isolated village-inhabited by old, toothless, impoverished, profane, and breast-tweaking hags-to bury their sister are not played by professional actresses; they are three actual sisters who perform in a strip club.
Born in 1975 in Moscow, Ilya Khrzhanovsky studied at the Bonn Academy of Fine Art and graduated from VGIK, the top Russian film school in 1998, where he studied in film direction under the tutelage of Marlen Khutsiev. Khrjanovsky, directed a theatrical production, What I Feel, which premiered at the Petergof's Kukrart Festival in 1997. And in 1998, he completed a short feature Ostanovka (A Stop) with Artem Mikhalkov. 4 is Khrzhanovsky's first feature-length film.