Kazakh writer/director Guka Omarova's feature debut, "Schizo" is a slice of fifteen year-old boy Schizo's grim life. Set in Kazakhstan in the economically desperate early nineties, Schizo and his mother are scratching out a meager existence. When Schizo is sent home from school after getting in trouble, his mother's boyfriend gets him involved in small-time illegal activities. With each decision Schizo makes, his life moves deeper in a downward spiral. His mother loves him and takes care of him but Schizo has no inspiring role models or guidance for his future.
Through a series of events Schizo meets an equally desperate slightly older woman, Zinka, who has a small boy and lives in a run down shack in an isolated barren stretch of land in the middle of nowhere. The three end up living as a de facto family and creating touching and supportive relationships. Schizo shows his tenderness with his gestures of generosity toward Zinka. She is appreciative for the help and fall in love with him. He has a sweet innocence, but his poor judgment doesn't serve him well.
There are a few notable facts about "Schizo" that are worth mentioning. One is that it has only two professional actors; the rest are nonprofessionals. Also, both the lead who plays Schizo and the small boy are orphans. The director made a trip to an orphanage specifically to find the toddler. Olga Landina is one of the professional actors, but it is her film debut. Her Zinka exudes vulnerability, wildness, and authenticity. We can see Zinka relax and become playful and bask in her sensuality when Schizo's help relieves her financial worries.
Schizo, played by Olzhas Nussuppaev, is quietly compelling. The cinematography sets the tone and informs the audience about Schizo's character. Wide shots emphasize Schizo's sense of isolation and his feeling of being small in a big world. Brown landscapes and drab gray buildings suggest desolation and poverty. One scene stands out as sublime and reflects Schizo's predicament. In the frame we see the spinning wheel of an overturned motorcycle, the gray road and red apples that Schizo is gathering. Our interest and feelings of caring about Schizo and Zinka develop over the course of the story, and by the end we are touched by its poignancy.
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 4/19/05
2004; Kazakh/German/French/Russian Co-Production; 86 minutes