DUSKA is a succinct distillation of Stelling’s cinema, examining how, fundamentally, people communicate. Bob is an aging film critic and committed cinephile whose life is now dominated by watching films at the theatre by his house, observing the beautiful cashier there, and trying to write a film script involving her. After a fiery row with her boyfriend, the woman takes refuge with Bob. However, this fortuitous event is ruined by the arrival of Duska, a man who bummed a cigarette from Bob at a Ukrainian film festival some years ago. They cannot speak each other’s language, but Duska seems to have settled in for the long haul.
Their relationship is conducted entirely through visual communication. They coexist through simple daily rituals. When the woman takes them to see her Russian-speaking friend, to translate what Duska is saying, Bob is told not to worry – Duska will not abandon him! Bob’s frustration leads to ever more ingenious methods of ditching Duska, culminating in multiple, hilarious murder attempts. When Duska finally leaves, of his own accord, Bob is able to finish writing his script – but soon realises that he misses the strange company Duska had provided. In a reversal of fortunes, Bob looks for Duska in the Ukraine only to be robbed and stranded by an opportunistic taxi-driver. Just as Bob’s loneliness seems to be at its acutest, a bus – which is the film’s trope for Duska’s birth – pulls up on the country lane. Why? Because Bob has learned to understand the world’s obscure language.
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