Ukrainian thriller Delirium (2013) has been named the best in the long fiction competition at the Baghdad International Film Festival (BIFF), Iraq. The 92-minute film is a joint Ukraine – Czech Republic production directed by prize-winning Ukrainian director Ihor Podolchak. The second prize of the competition went to Australian romcom Romancing Sydney by Anmol Mishra.
Two other winning films at BIFF 2013 received the jury prize – Iraqi Death Triangle by Adnan Osman and Iranian production The Last Winter by Salem Salavati.
Delirium is based on a 2008 book Induktor by Ukrainian author Dmytro Belianskyi. The story begins with a family inviting a young psychiatrist to “untangle the circumstances of their father’s illness… [who has] developed a suicidal fixation for ropes and knots among other things.” Analyzing his patient’s delirium, the doctor himself loses track of reality. Suddenly, “the task of ‘how to help’ is twisted into ‘who am I? Doctor or patient? Chance guest, member of this suffering family, or a catholic priest who has dreamed this all up?’
Interestingly, the two title roles in the production went to amateur actors who never have starred in a film before. Ukrainian actor Volodymyr Khimyak plays the Guest (young psychiatrist) and Petro Rybka portrays the suicidal Father. The lead female role – that of the Mother – went to Lesya Voynevych, a professional Ukrainian actress working at a Lviv theater.
In order to recreate the state of delirium, the director used special Tilt & Shift lens, which allows to record a distorted, oddly focused picture. Virtually no audio was used from the actual set, Kyiv actor Vitali Linetskyi lent his voice to the characters of the Guest, Father, and Son.
Delirium belongs to the genre of claustrophobic productions that create the illusion of being trapped in a house with no exits. Podolchak puts his characters in a loop where they can’t know whether anything outside their immediate environment even exists.
The film was received quite warmly by the critics who appreciated the director’s experimental attempt. During the Odesa International Film Festival in July of 2013 the film was described as a painful and scary black hole that still pulls the audience in.