Art & Culture
First, let me preface this review by openly admitting that the only Russian I know are the words 'nyet', 'vodka' and 'dosvedanya' (one of which I may have had to check the spelling of). Nevertheless, I sat through the 2 hour epic that is Pipeline without any hint of struggling to understand the film's directive and intent.
With traditions that don't seem entirely a world away from our own cultural highlights, Mansky is able to provide a poetic look at the various similarities and differences between the Western and Eastern European regions. We journey from East to West along a Trans-Siberian pipeline, taking in a range of fascinating human experiences from those who live in close proximity to the pipeline with a light shone on the stark contrast between those at opposite ends of the physical and economical spectrum.
Though we may consider Russia to be one of the key players on the European stage, Vitaly Manksy's documentary highlights just how far our urban/suburban life is from the lives of great portions of the Russian people. Living off the land, those shown by Manksy live a life that many of us would simply be unable to comprehend – even the overwhelming supply of snow would probably send babbles of hipster-heads spinning. It's inspiring to see the effort and commitment of these individuals as they undertake such grand responsibilities, taking on jobs and tasks that truly matter and make a difference (yes, I see the irony as manual labour for me generally means nothing more taxing than cutting the lawn). 
The documentary is beautifully shot throughout, Russia's rural scenery takes centre stage as we are treated to a wealth of stunning landscapes. As the film continues and we gain snapshots into lives of those along the pipeline there are plenty of surprises on offer – unfortunately the image of a defecating cow remains hideously stuck in my mind. 
Despite the cultural differences on display throughout the film there is something other than the pipeline that feels like a unifying feature. It's hard to quite put my finger on it but there is a determined spirit on show throughout that is hard not to admire. Whether it be questioning police, attending a funeral or simply making the most of a wedding buffet, the film is able to brilliantly capture your heart and crash through the language barrier to become a truly emotional journey that will expand your horizons and fight off any misguided pre-conceptions you may have of these genuinely hard-working people. Though the Western regions on show may be significantly more decadent and most likely blissfully unaware of the everyday struggles of their Eastern brethren, they are just as much a part of the country's cultural make-up. 
Whilst the country's culture develops, the journey of the gas continues on.

Catch Pipeline at Riverside Studios, 29th May at 7.30pm. Tickets and more information available on the DocHouse website.