Reviews TV + Movies

Pyotr495: A Film Even More Pertinent And Relevant Today

Only last month Russia amended the law to make it more stringent, putting the lives of more queer people in the country at risk – making Pyotr495 even more pertinent and relevant today.

Pyotr495 is a Canadian LGBTQ+ horror film set in Russia. The film uses Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law as a backdrop for the 15-minute short to play out. The narrative spans a few hours in the life of the queer protagonist, Pyotr, as he plans to meet someone he connects with through a dating app.

The film opens with an intertitle in gothic red font that introduces the audience to the “Gay Propaganda” Law. This foreshadows two major themes of the film – the context in which the film is set, and the film’s predominant use of the element of camp. Russia’s anti-LGBT law has been used time and again to legitimise and perpetuate violence against queer people in the country. Only last month Russia amended the law to make it more stringent, putting the lives of more queer people in the country at risk – making Pyotr495 even more pertinent and relevant today. Foregrounding the film very consciously in this political context aids to further the atmosphere of impending doom and anxiety– that even today it is a criminal offence to be queer in over 60 countries in the world, and that we as queer people must constantly live in fear. In its short running time, the film manages to cram multiple layers of symbolism and metaphors, as well as allusions that pay homage to the genre as a whole.

The “horror” in the film is two-fold. It stems, of course, from the grotesque body horror that is synonymous with the genre. The imminent fear comes not only from the supernatural, but also from the very real threat queer people face in their everyday lives – the threat of physical violence, the constant fear of being outed, surveillance from the hegemonic institutions that govern us. The character of the antagonist Sergei, for example, becomes symbolic not only of heteronormative hyper-masculinity, but also of Right-Wing nationalist pre-occupations.  As the film unfolds we learn that the actual “monster” in Pyotr495 is, in fact, not the supernatural at all, but rather the very real and familiar oppressive forces that surround us and our communities.

At its heart, however, the film is an idealistic story of the triumph of good over evil. Pyotr495 takes us on a journey that is queer in every sense of the word – the absurdist underpinnings of the film, the visual descent into camp, and the deliciously queer climax sequence.The clever and surprising ending to the film subverts multiple tropes of the genre and successfully attempts to reclaim them.

You can watch Pyotr495 on GagaOOLala. GagaOOLala – Find Your Story is the one and only Asian streaming platform for LGBTQ+ content.

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Ananya is an educator who teaches English Literature. She enjoys reading queer theory, watching horror films and geeks out over craft supplies.

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