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TCHAIKOVSKY’S WIFE

Kirill Serebrennikov | 2022 | 143 MINS
Russia | Subtitles
UK Premiere - Russia

Alyona Mikhailova is tremendous as Antonina Miliukova, whose naivety and narcissism fester in the rubble of her marriage to the homosexual composer. (World Premiere: Cannes 2022.)

In Detail

Writer-director Kirill Serebrennikov (a Russian dissident and no friend of Putin’s) brings his intense sympathies to the unhappy figure of Antonina, the role taken by Glenda Jackson in Ken Russell’s 1971 film ‘The Music Lovers’ (which we are also screening). Serebrennikov’s movie imagines Antonina as selfish, fanatical and antisemitic, but also as the most wronged wife to a genius since Sophia Tolstoy or, indeed, Constance Wilde.

As often in the past, this director’s film-making inhales or intuits the characteristics of its subject, and so it becomes almost oppressively hysterical and highly strung, like Antonina or Tchaikovsky himself. The year is 1872, Antonina is a student and admirer, to say the least, of Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron). She is desperate to meet the famous composer and at a party has the chance to briefly acquaint herself with him before he leaves.

She eventually tracks him down and convinces him to visit her, at which point she confesses her love and proposes that he take her as his wife. It’s her dream and she will not take no for an answer. The film certainly brings home Antonina’s terrible loneliness: for most of the film she is apart from Tchaikovsky, but is mentally chained to someone who hates her.

There is no denying the ambition or craft of this visually virtuosic film, with Serebrennikov mounting elaborate long takes that sometimes play disorientating games with time and space. Who wins with the wonderful feverish, hysterical OTT filmmaking: Serebrennikov or Russell? See both to decide.

Our thanks to Sovereign Film Distribution for this screening.

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