Twilight Portrait (Портрет в сумерках) 5th Russian Film Festival Apollo Piccadilly 7 November

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At home with the rapist

At the beginning of this film three traffic cops chase down and rape a prostitute.  Marina who is slumming with friends and family at the edge of town hears the victim’s scream.  After some pointless love-making with family friend Valera he tells her she can make her own way home.  She breaks her heel, has her handbag (money, passport, everything) stolen and is picked up by the traffic cops who rape her.

Marina is a social worker with a fine lifestyle, thanks to her father’s money.  She works with youngsters who have been physically or sexually abused.  She lists the treacheries and inadequacies of her husband and friends at an impromptu birthday party in her honour.

She takes to haunting a seedy cafe near where the police picked her up.  One evening she catches sight of Andrei, one of the cops and tarils him home.  In the lift with him she has a broken bottle but instead sinks to her knees to fellate him.  She comes to stay in his flat while telling her husband she’s gone to visit her mother.  She and Andrei have vigorous sex, and she also plays the little wife, cooking and cleaning.  When she says (frequently) I love you he hits her hard.  Also once when she kisses him affectionately.  She looks at him–at both of them–as at subjects of an experiment she’s carrying out.

At the end Marina accidentally-on-purpose fails to meet her husband at the airport and walks down the edge of the road.  Andrei takes of his pistol and leaves it with his comrades in the patrol car and follows her irresolutely (in the interim they have have killed three girls with their car and covered it up).

What’s the point of this?  Not that women enjoy rape, especially since it was co-written by director Angelina Nikonova and lead actress Olga Dykhovichnaya.  Partly it’s who is controlling who in the relationship between the central characters; there’s also class–the well-off and the lower classes live separate and inimical lives and location–life in the outskirts is different from that in the centre of town.

There are some classic scenes of Russian life, especially where Marina tries to report the theft of her passport and is only allowed to submit a declaration written under dictation about losing it while tipsy.

I don’t really think the film makes its point though–or if it does, the point about Marina’s psychology comes at too high a price (the woman raped at the beginning and the three killed offscreen).

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