Victor Kossakovsky’s Lullaby

Dare to start your day with a lullaby? Good luck!

Victor Kossakovsky’s poignant three minute documentary about homelessness strips away all but the most most critical narrative elements: several simple shots of vagrants sleeping in a bank’s ATM foyer, three brief scenarios with ATM clients, ambient urban street noise, and an evocative “lullaby” which simultaneously soothes and mocks. The result is subtle, disturbing and captivating. I’ve already watched Lullaby twice this morning. I’ll watch it again.

Victor Kossakovsky

Victor Kossakovsky (Photo: Bert Kommerij)

The film poem’s location (Berlin) and music (sung by Nadezhda Utkina, an ethnic Udmurt) are foreign, but the theme is universal. Unlike the preachy, precious and shock mongering poverty diatribes with which we’re familiar,  Kossakovsky’s Lullaby offers a more complex snapshot of the problem.

I biked around my neighborhood and started filming. In one of my favorite moments, a woman opened a door leading to the A.T.M.’s and, when she realized that there were people sleeping inside, slowly closed the door and tiptoed away, saying, “Sleep well!” ~ Victor Kossakovsky (

Seen through the eye of the camera we don’t initially know why the woman stalls. I imagined her deliberating, calculating the risks of entering. Is she in danger? Will she be mugged? And then she turns slowly, quietly and leaves without using the ATM out of deference to the sleeping homeless people.

Victor Kossakovsky’s nuanced approach, enhanced by coupling a gritty urban scenario with a tender and innocent lullaby, leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. No tidy takeaway here. The mark of a gifted storyteller.

Victor Kossakovsky Update:

Returning to the post I was surprised to discover no comments about Lullaby. I’ve primed the pump with the hope that it will prompt deserved praise for Victor Kossakovsky and perhaps prompt some debate among viewers less smitten. My comments won’t appear until moderated, so here’s what I wrote:

Subtle, poignant and haunting. I’ve watched the video twice driven by the same instinct that often compels me to read a poem twice, to perpetuate the experience and to swim deeper into its message. Victor Kossakovsky’s “Lullaby” offers a fresh (and overdue) look at the complexity of homelessness without preaching or reducing his message to a precious Helvetica slogan. Bravo!

Perhaps you’d like to share your reaction with Kossakovsky too? Let’s jumpstart the discourse!

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