The New York Observer
Andrew Sarris

Andrei Konchalovsky's House of Fools , from his own screenplay, is the first film I've seen that deals with what is described as the first Chechen war in 1996. Most of the action takes place in a mental hospital near Ingushetia's border with Russia. Don't ask me what or where Ingushetia happens to be, because the production notes didn't tell me. What they do say is that the film was inspired by the true story of a mental hospital near the border, a hospital that was invaded first by Chechen troops and then by the Russians, along with all the tanks and other armored vehicles on either side.

The film itself is clear enough in its contours, a romantic fantasy centered on one character, Janna (Iuliya Vysotskaya), a permanent patient in the hospital who plays an accordion constantly, thus producing colorized transformations of her surroundings in her mind. Bryan Adams, an international pop star, plays himself as her literal dream lover, though she is briefly attracted to a Chechen soldier named Ahmed (Sultan Islamov). What impressed me most about the film was the gentle, unthreatening natures of both the men at war and the inmates of the asylum. Janna floats through the movie without a single moment of menace to her presumed dreamlike virginity. I haven't seen armies with so little lust and lechery since the first Hollywood movies about "our boys" in World War II.

In the pleasant haze of my almost total mystification, I felt a feeling of regret surging through the entire Russian nation not only over the Chechens, but over the many obstacles standing in the way of the Tolstoyan dream of universal brotherhood. House of Fools is a kindly film with a generous heart beaming through the discordant rumblings of useless wars.