Marina is a gorgeous upper-crust Muscovite with an opulent wardrobe and good-looking husband to match. She's employed as a social worker, a profession offering meager financial rewards. Thankfully her affluent father provides the supplementary income her job, and her hapless husband, cannot. Yet instead of finding contentment in her win-win situation, Marina carries on an affair with her best friend's husband, and also initiates a bizarre series of erotic encounters with a deadbeat cop who previously raped her. Written by
A commentary about Russian society in the style of Haneke
Having seen such a wonderful film at the Stockholm Film Festival as "Twilight Portrait" I was quite embarrassed when my countrymen showed themselves to be culturally handicapped when asking director Angelina Nikonova and co-writer/lead actor Olga Dykhovichnaya, at the screenings Q/A, some of the most obvious questions ever. This cultural (including literature, art and cinema) ineptitude is the only explanation I can possibly have for this, since "Twilight Portrait" is an excellent movie on many different levels.
Above all Nikonova and Dykhovichnaya have made a movie that, in the vein of Gogol and Dostoevsky, comments on a country that they love, but a society that they desperately want to improve. The flaws of modern Russian society are accurately addressed by the creators, and what is foremost eminent about this targeting is that, even though festival writers want to accentuate the gender issue, it applies to all levels of inadequacy - no matter if it is police corruption (genderless) or male chauvinism.
Psychology plays an enormous part of this movie and in an age where heavily make-uped pirates or vampires facing teenage dilemmas is the norm, I hope AN and OD applies the philosophy "It is not HOW MANY people you impress, but rather WHO you impress that matters" to their filmmaking, otherwise they are going to be disappointed. Most people will find this movie boring and slow, because they are used to shallow, fast moving plot. Some scenes are truly harrowing and not for the common viewer.
Nikonova use some techniques that are characteristic for Michael Haneke and she masters them quite well, which makes me confide in her ability to make good movies. Haneke is, according to me, the world's premier director, and anyone who successfully can be influenced by his work is a huge friend of mine.
A last note on this movie is that I've seen quite a lot of modern Russian productions (including the work of Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Andrei Zvyagintsev and Alexander Zeldovich), though it is really rare that I get moved in the way that "Twilight Portrait" moved me. Perhaps it is because I recognize the truthfulness in Nikonovas description of modern Russia, and if anyone less subjected to empiricism concerning this country watches it, it must be the best window into an unknown world created in a long time.
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