Posts Tagged ‘7th russian film festival’

Mirrors (2013) 7th Russian Film Festival 2013

Dir.: Marina Migunova; Cast: Viktoria Isakova, Roman Polyanskiy, Victor Dobronravov

Russia 2013, 130 min.   Biopic      Russian with English subtitles

Some brave Russian dramas will never reach mainstream audiences in their homeland such as WINTER JOURNEY.  MIRRORS is one that probably should have stayed at home.

A biopic of Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), MIRRORS is carried alone by Viktoria Isakova in the title role. With her strong performance she saves this overlong, often confusing and in the end not very truthful feature. Tsvetaeva was born into an upper-class Russian family. Her very strict mother died when she was 14, which was a liberation for Marina. At the age of 16 she studied at the Sorbonne, before returning to Russia, where she met Sergej Efron, a cadet, at a Black Sea town. She was 19 when they married. Her two first children Irina and Alya were born before the Russian Revolution. Whilst Efron was fighting at the front, and later for the White Army, Tsvetaeva suffered from near starvation in Moscow. She wrote poems glorifying the White Army and later emigrated via Berlin  and Prague (where she had an affair with Konstantin Rodzevitch, a soldier and friend of her husband) to Paris. She suffered from Tuberculosis from 1925 onwards, bcause her life in the Russian émigré society in Paris was materially very unrewarding. Efron became homesick for Russia in Paris, and joined the NKDW (forerunner of the KGB), killing a man near Lausanne. In 1939 Marina followed Efron and her daughter Alya to Russia, where she killed herself in August 1941, after being notified by the authorities of the death of her husband.

It is always difficult to show the written work of a genius in a feature film, and Migunova, like many before her, fails the task. We hear voice-overs of Tsvetaeva’s poems, but mainly we see a rather affected woman, craving for affection and making scenes about banalities. Her husband is portrayed as a weakling, who suffers for his love for his wife and his sudden conversion to communism remains totally unexplained. These rather one-dimensional characters act in a rather well set up design of diverse stages of poverty, but they cannot compensate for the episodic nature of the narrative. Camera work is very conventional, mainly relaying on close-ups.

But the worst aspect of the film is its lack of truthfulness. To begin with, we never learn that Tsvetaeva gave her daughters Irina and Alya to an orphanage in Russia, in the misguided hope that they would be fed better there.  Irina died, leaving the poet with a life-long trauma. And whilst we are shown the ménage-a-trois between Marina, Sergej and Konstantin in Prague at length (even though it lasted not much more than a year), Migunova leaves out totally more important personal encounters of the poet, all of which fond their way into her most celebrated work. Soon after her marriage she had an affair with Osip Mandelstam, and between1912 and 1917 she was the lover of Sofia Parnock, both of them poets. And in 1917 Tsvetaeva met the actress Sofia Holliday, writing countless poems and a novella about their relationship, which lasted until 1917. Do we have to understand that the ideology of the leadership of the Russian Federation regarding homosexuality is being followed by its artists to the letter? AS

MIRRORS screens during the 7th Russian Film Festival 2013 on Friday, 15th November at The Mayfair Hotel London.


Bite the Dust (2013) 7th Russian Film Festival 2013

Director: Taisia Igumentseva; Cast: Sergej Abroskin, Maksim Vitorgan, Irina Denisova, Anna Rud, Ela Sanko, Luris Lautsinsh, Alina Sergeeva; Russian Federation 2013, 105 min.

With her light-hearted and sumptuously-shot debut feature, BITE THE DUST, Taisia Igumentseva has succeeding in breaking away from the grim, dark view of classic Soviet cinema she feels her country is best known for abroad.  Cleverly though, the themes of  ‘old Russia’ still peep through in the vibrant characterisation of this quirky ‘apocalyptic’ comedy.

When the eight inhabitants of a remote village in Russia learn that the world will come to an end in 24 hours, they react first with panic, then with an outpouring of emotions, upsetting the given order of the relationships – at least for the time being. Senia, a not particularly successful thief, is married to the beautiful Nastya, who spends her days reading, housekeeping being not one of her strengths. But Senia forgives her, his profession allows him to bribe his wife to stay with him, because he knows that his neighbour Mikkail (married to Olga with two sons), more than admirers Nastya. The zany inventor Vanya finds countless ways of nearly electrocuting himself, whilst the cinephile Nina mourns for her dead husband by finding refuge in showing the villagers arthouse films. The Lenin enthusiast Zina and the drunken Vassilych, who roams the village with his cow Candy, make up the villagers, whose reaction to the apocalypse is very much in keeping alive the Russian soul; never mind the political system.

In preparation for the meltdown everybody cooks, a table is laid out, and all the alcohol reserves of the village are put on the table. Then Nastya and Mikkail declare their love for each other in a temporary madness brought on by the threat of death. Senia tries to shack up with Olga and the kids, but he only receives a couple of towels, since it has started to rain incessantly. Nina ends her mourning, whilst the precious films are destroyed in the floods. (A metaphor that only love beats the cinema). Whilst rain and snow pour down (“it takes a long time to kill us”), and everyone cuddles together in one room.

BITE THE DUST is a gentle comedy, full of warmth for all protagonists, who are less than perfect, but are shown to be deeply human despite their faults. The camera work is outstanding: the desolation is shown in sweeping shots, the close-ups dwarf the characters even more in comparison with the force of nature. Even though the space of the action is very limited and confined to a rural riverside village,  there is always something new to enjoy if it’s only the devastation caused by rain and snow in endless variations. Much imagination has gone into the sets with a good eye for the smallest details echoing Russian rural life. The acting is convincing, even Vassilych’s cow and Zina’s dog are well integrated and endearing. Far away from the modern world, the villagers represent the victory of the human spirit over the elements, emotions triumph over material considerations, their simple solidarity is more powerful than any –isms of yesterday and today. AS



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