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Russia's most spectacular film project - DAU features Teodor Currentzis / The Moscow Times

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At the end of January, parts of what is surely Russia's most spectacular film project premiered in Paris. The project - something between a film series and an extended social and psychological experiment - is called "DAU" and directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky, a filmmaker with only one major work before this project. It is based, in part, on the life of the Soviet scientist Lev Landau, here played by the classical music conductor Teodor Currentzis. Most of the cast of almost 500 principal characters and 10,000 extras are played by non-actors. The film project initially had a script by novelist Vladimir Sorokin and follows the life of the people working in a Soviet research institute from 1938 to 1968. 

Most of the filming took place in an enormous set built in Ukraine that recreated, to some extent, a Soviet-era research institute. Cast members lived on the set; dressed in the clothes of the eras being filmed, had period haircuts, glasses, and medicines; bought food and goods that were typical of the time periods, using real rubles from past decades. 

More than 700 hours of film was shot from 2008 until 2011, although most of the "life" in the institute seems not to have been filmed. Of the material that was filmed, it's apparently not clear what was scripted and what was real or played to look real. Some participants have expressed discomfort or distress about the morality of some of the filming. 

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