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Review of Pamfir: disturbing occult thriller as Ukrainian smuggler returns to his homeland

Photo by Marjan Blan on Unsplash

The setting is Bukovina, in the eastern Carpathian mountains bordering Romania. Oleksandr Yatsentyuk plays Leonid, nicknamed Pamfir (“Stone”), a guy who has just come home from a job in Poland; he makes passionate love to his wife Olena (Solomiia Kyrykova) and then settles happily back down to family life with his son Nazar (Stanislav Potiak), who has evidently grown from his teen years to adulthood while Leonid’s been away. Leonid is looking forward to the local Malanka festival, a faintly sinister, pagan affair of masks and straw capes; without any difficulty Leonid also resumes his regular his job as a water-diviner, detecting sites and digging wells.

But there are problems. He has a tense relationship with his father, whom he actually blinded in one eye after a fistfight, and also with the church; his wife is devout and very insistent that Nazar should join the choir. Leonid himself has asked the local priest there to sign his various employment papers, which he leaves with him in the church. But a prank by Nazar ends with the church burning down and Leonid feels honour bound to pay for it to be rebuilt. So he has no choice but to resume his dark vocation: smuggling cigarettes and pharmaceuticals through the forest to Romania. But this will seriously annoy the local gangster and horrendously corrupt forestry commissioner Oreste (Petro Chychuk), on whose turf he is trespassing.

There is something nightmarish and hallucinatory about this business and also in the terrible retribution exacted by Oreste, a grotesque mob chieftain. The film has a throb of something disturbing and transgressive.

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