War is insane. Insane people are cute. Bryan Adams is God. There, now that you've got these three principles down, you don't need to see House of Fools, a laboured Russian film about a young woman living in an insane asylum who's fixated on Bryan Adams and gets embroiled in the Chechen war.
Andrei Konchalovsky, who's made US hits like Tango & Cash and Runaway Train, crafted House of Fools from two true stories and one sad belief. The more interesting story provides the setting: an asylum near the Chechen border that was abandoned by its staff, leaving the saner patients to care for the others. The less interesting story provides the protagonist: a real-life obsessed female fan of the director provides the inspiration for Janna (Iuliya Vysotskaya), a pretty mental patient who believes Bryan Adams is her fiancé. In the press notes, the director claims he couldn't use a Russian singer because a Russian "would never have the aura of an absolute ideal," an oddly self-loathing remark: Bryan Adams may be ideal in the director's eyes, but to most Canadians, he's just washed up. The fact that Adams recycles Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman from Don Juan De Marco and appears in fantasy sequences singing that damn tune over and over does little to change this impression.
Most of the film follows Janna's transfer of affections from Adams to one of the Chechen soldiers who commandeer the hospital after war breaks out in the area and the staff vanishes. This storyline is dragged out excruciatingly, leaving the patients' reorganization in the dust. The last half hour seems like a totally different film. Story structure is obviously not Konchalovsky's forte. Neither is directing actors – the patients prance around like caricatures. Only when the war intrudes does the film briefly come alive.