fri 19/07/2024

Tchaikovsky's Wife review - husband material | reviews, news & interviews

Tchaikovsky's Wife review - husband material

Tchaikovsky's Wife review - husband material

Discord drowns out gay composer's marriage in Kirill Serebrennikov's biopic

Alyona Mikhailova (right) as Antonina Miliukova eavesdropping on her husband Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron)

The movies haven’t been kind to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker Suite was a highlight of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940) perhaps, but the 1969 Soviet biopic directed by Igor Talankin was tedious and Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers, released two years later, worse than that.

Tchaikovsky’s Wife, written and directed by the talented Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov, tells the story of Antonina Miliukova, who married Tchaikovsky in 1877 and then went mad because she couldn’t reconcile herself to the composer’s homosexuality.

It should have been obvious to the smitten Miliukova (Alyona Mikhailova) that Tchaikovsky, intriguingly played by Odin Lund Biron as a blimp haunted by demons, wasn’t exactly husband material.

Shortly before she proposes to him, Tchaikovsky tells Miliukova that he could only ever love “as a brother” – and then he flinches after kissing her during their marriage ceremony. “I wouldn’t call that a wedding,” says one of the guests. “Felt more like a funeral.”

Serebrennikov’s film captures the oppressive weight of Russian tradition that continues to make the lives of gay (and straight) people so difficult. The director’s brave opposition to Putin’s anti-LGBT ideology, among other issues, resulted in two years’ house arrest.

Yet the writer-director struggles to engage the audience in what is essentially a non-relationship. And the film is so lavishly dressed and shot (by cinematographer Vladislav Opelyants) that the human story gets lost in all the handsome but inert costume drama.

Sometimes the inertia is offset by an outburst of screaming or a dance fantasia involving Mikhailova and half a dozen naked Guards officers. Serebrennikov’s nutcracker may be visually striking but, as an account of the heroine’s descent into isolation and madness, it’s a poor substitute for storytelling.

Serebrennikov's lavish film captures the oppressive weight of Russian tradition


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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