In Kokosmos, director Anna Radchenko creates a philosophical wonderland with a visually stunning collage of images that combines her fascination with existential questions about self and the universe with fashion and CGI. Shot in live action and CGI, Kokosmos engages the viewer in an odyssey of sight and idea.
Featuring model Yana Dobroliubova, who is recognized for her unconventional and ethereal appearance, Anna Radchenko’s Kokosmos— a tribute to Russia’s infatuation with space—goes live today—Russia’s Cosmonautics Day. The director worked exclusively with a selection of Russian fashion designers and stayed true to the post-soviet space theme through a neon color palette.
Radchenko takes us on a captivating journey into her interest in visual collage and the juxtaposition of images of space, being, nature and reality in her live action CGI short film, Kokosmos.
#DirectedbyWomen caught up with Radchenko for a quick conversation facilitated by Leila Kincaid.
DBW: Kokosmos is an ethereal, lucid dreamscape with philosophical, poetic, and interesting juxtapositions of image and idea—like the lovers kissing with planet Earth between their lips and in their mouths, the eye in the sky, the shattering prism, and planets falling out of eyes. I didn’t want the movie to end, and could have easily watched for 90 minutes, because it was hypnotic and marvelous. Do you have plans to make longer films in this vein?
AR: Oh thank you so much, you really grabbed the essence of it.
I would absolutely love to make a longer piece, but I need a crazy screenwriter to work with. I’d rather not focus on writing long stories and narratives, as my world is actually very visual. If you know a screenwriter who likes to create surreal and absurd worlds – please do recommend!
DBW: The style of animation in Kokosmos is wonderful. I like the theme of the eyes and the juxtaposition of self and universe. It’s surreal, yet shows us a reality we know is not fiction—we are one with the universe and we are in it, and we are creators and witnesses. We are the eye in the sky. Did you storyboard the animations? How did you conceive of them?
AR: To be honest this project was super experimental. I didn’t have a detailed storyboard, instead I only had visual references and a sketch per scene. The ideas for the movement came on the go and we tried to keep everything as organic and fluid as possible.
DBW: Kokosmos reminded me of Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio with music by Phillip Glass. The music in your film is as equally beautiful and poignant as the music in that film. I know you have always been fascinated with space and that growing up in Russia informed your creation of Kokosmos. The astronauts rising into the sky. The question of who and what is out there… Who are some of your influences in filmmaking and who and what inspired you to make Kokosmos?
AR: I was very inspired by the Japanese manga artist Shintaro Kago. The scenes with multiple eyes come from there. And yes, the Russian background definitely influenced me in wanting to explore space in my own way. I’m also inspired by collage artists and the way they combine different visual elements that wouldn’t normally fit together. In Kokosmos you can probably see that in different shots, for example having snails in space, astronauts floating in a forest or planets being part of a kiss.
In general I’m very inspired by Robert and Shana Parkeharrison, Roy Andersson, but also philosophers and psychologists such as Victor Frankl and Alfried Längle who raise existential questions over the human existence.
DBW: The image of a prism starts and ends the film—the violet crystal matrix in the astronaut’s helmet at the beginning, and the model/actress playing with and shattering red prisms at the end. The use of these colors seems intentional and suggests the idea that we’re all connected through the spectrum of light from which we, and all of reality, springs. What is the meaning and symbolism of the prisms for you?
AR: I love your interpretation! It’s very close to mine, as the prism has many sides and it’s always rotating. It only shows you a couple of sides at a time, playing with the idea of having the whole picture always being hidden from us. We can never grasp the extent and size of our huge universe, of our own human experience, and we can only ever see two sides at one time and never the whole thing.
DBW: There was something hinted at about evolution with the jelly fish and astronauts rising on the screen. Was that intended? What is the idea with these images? Do you want to tell us or do you like the viewers to create their own interpretations?
AR: To be honest I always prefer for the viewers to come up with their own interpretations. I feel that sometimes when you talk about your work too much, it kind of affects the personal experience of the person watching.
DBW: What challenges did you meet in making Kokosmos?
AR: In one word, CGI. It was the first time I experimented with it and naively we had no CGI supervisor. As a result, we did make some interesting choices here and there, which in post-production made things more fiddly. But it’s been a learning curve and I’m really pleased with the outcome.
Another challenge was finding a way to direct the snails. For some reason, they wouldn’t stay on the model’s head unless it was our make-up who placed them. From then on, she rightly became known as the ‘snail whisperer’. Happily enough, once the production was over, the studio manager asked if he could adopt them and give them to his son as a present.
DBW: Thank you for making this surreal and engaging film! I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Anna Radchenko is an award-winning director and multidisciplinary artist from Moscow, who now resides in London. Her specialisations are short films, music videos, commercials, mixed media editorial projects and art installations.
Graduating with a distinction in MA Fashion Photography from London College of Fashion, Radchenko’s films have been selected for the world’s major fashion and short film festivals including London, Berlin, Los Angeles and more.
In terms of vision, she uses surreal ideas to create content that is both optically arresting and memorable.
Anna is represented by Kode Media in the UK.
Leila Kincaid is a lifelong lover and student of film. She is a screenwriter and hopes that one day, you will get to see films directed by her.