Masha Tokareva , Natalya Pavlenkova , Dmitriy Groshev
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…touching, gently whimsical, grotesque and very strange.
There is a long and glorious tradition of absurdism in Russian fiction, often in the interests of social or political allegory. Zoology is a disquietingly memorable addition to that rich canon. Exactly what it’s meant to symbolise – and, indeed, where symbolism ends and sheer poignant drama takes over – is a moot point, but the ambiguity actually adds to its subtle strength.
The central character here is Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova), a lonely middle-aged woman who works as an accountant at a zoo in a coastal town in southern Russia. Her co-workers torment her with cruel practical jokes and comments – she gets on rather better with the zoo’s animals – and her spare time at home with her intensely religious mother is drab and cheerless. So far, so unremarkable…and then one day Natasha grows a tail. You read that right. The tail – long and made of skin – looks unnervingly real, and has a tendency to wiggle. The changes that it brings into Natasha’s life are by no means all for the worse, and include a burgeoning friendship with young radiologist, Peter (Dmitriy Groshev).
What follows is by turns touching, gently whimsical, grotesque and (of course) very strange. Everyone in the town, from neighbours and bureaucrats to Orthodox priests, seems to react to the tail – or even to mere rumours of its existence – in accordance with their own particular fixations, superstitions, or sexual inclinations. Zoology fits a lot of ideas into its 87 minutes, yet it never feels top-heavy, and it maintains a quiet insistent power. The ending is great, and the whole film stays with you. Highly recommended.
Zoology screens as part of the Wonder Women collection, which plays on the World Movies Channel 430 on Foxtel from Wednesday March 8 to Sunday March 12, 2017, to celebrate International Women’s Day. For more information visit worldmovies.com.au.