Definitely more in tune with the mopey Kaurismaki Crime and Punishment than the talky, overbaked Sternberg version. In fact, Student out-mopes Kaurismaki, with an unnamed lead character who lives in a constant state of anger and shame, walking head-down and barely speaking a word during the movie.
Get used to this expression – it’s the only one you’ll get:
There’s much explicit talk in the movie (in his philosophy classes, on TV, at his job slating shots on a film production) about wealth disparity and the modern condition. We witness rich guys punishing people and killing animals with impunity, but the Student still murders and robs a local shopkeeper, and in his late confession to a girl he likes, he says he didn’t do it for the money but “to see if I’m capable of real action, or a coward who just talks, like most people.” Differences from the other movies: he doesn’t toss or hide the stolen money, the crime investigation doesn’t enter the film, and he has no contact with the police until the final few minutes when he turns himself in – although he shows up at the scene of the crime and talks with workmen renovating the place, a familiar scene from the other versions.
The poet’s daughter, to whom he eventually confesses:
Online it’s being called Bressonian – I can see that, with the pacing, and some might see the Student as blank-faced, but I saw simmering rage in his expressions. Bresson wouldn’t have injected so many dream sequences – there are at least three, very effectively staged so that you only realize they were dreams moments after he wakes up (so the same time he’s realizing it).
M. Sicinski (who makes a good case for the movie being Bressonian besides just the lead performace):
Omirbayev could hardly be more pointed in his exploration of what these now-classical ur-texts — Dostoyevsky and Bresson — have to tell us about the contemporary situation in Kazakhstan and, arguably, the former Soviet states more generally … the Student is finding himself stranded in a society where unchecked power rules the day, and yet he is expected to stick to his studies, gain knowledge, evaluate ethical quandaries that no one in the urban jungle of Astana even remotely cares about.
B. Nelepo in Cinema Scope has been following Omirbaev’s career, refers to “his trilogy of adaptations of Russian classics after 2007’s Shuga (based on Anna Karenina) and his short film of Chekhov’s About Love for the Jeonju Digital Project in 2006″:
And yet I’m progressively less enthusiastic about each new Omirbayev feature, because he’s caught up in a pattern he invented a long time ago. Student is his most explicitly political film: the director juxtaposes the protagonist’s crime to the assassination of JFK, the final monologue is a lashing-out against the bombings of civilians, and a visit by George W. Bush is broadcast on TV as a reference to Napoleon, who is mentioned in Crime and Punishment. One would hardly expect the author of the stunning Kaïrat (1992) and Cardiogram (1995) to reduce Dostoyevsky to a simple anti-capitalist poster.