Pavlensky – Man and Might

A film project of Irene Langemann – 90 and 52 minutes, HD

In 2012, the Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky attracted international attention when he sewed his mouth shut with a coarse thread to demonstrate his solidarity with the convicted members of Pussy Riot. According to Pavlensky, political artists in Putin’s Russia are being robbed of their voice and condemned to silence.

In November, 2013, the artist sat down naked in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow and nailed his scrotum to the pavement. The public action, entitled Fixation, was meant as a metaphor for the apathy and political indifference of contemporary Russian society.

The next year, as the fire and smoke billowed into the frosty winter sky above Kiev’s Maidan square, Pavlensky and some colleagues set a pile of tires afire on St. Petersburg’s Tripartite Bridge, beat large metal sheets with truncheons, and waved the Ukrainian flag. The symbolic reference to the Euromaidan movement in Kiev could well seal Pavlensky’s fate: although no statutory offense was committed, Petr Pavlensky now faces the threat of three years of prison camp. His attorneys see the court case against the artist as a political show trial. But Pavlensky cannot be intimidated. His main aim is to reveal how power turns people into objects. Despite ongoing criminal proceedings, he decided to stage a new art action, his most dangerous yet.

On November 9th, 2015 Pavlensky set fire to the door of the headquarters of the FSB, the Russian secret service, to protest against “state terror”. Pavlensky dared to revolt against the country’s most powerful institution! And symbolically made clear that in Putin’s Russia the secret service rules the country. Since then Pavlensky has been on remand in Moscow’s Butyrka Prison awaiting trial.

The film shows the political activist Pyotr Pavlensky and his preoccupation with the liberty of the individual confronted by the power of the state. We accompany Pavlensky as he engages with the judicial system, the escalating intolerance and violence in today’s Russia. Pavlensky’s case is gaining in importance. He is unique and has now reached the world stage.


A co-production of Lichtfilm with SWR and Arte, funded by the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW.