"Tchaikovsky's Wife", by Kirill Serebrennikov, or the setting for a passion for suffering

“Tchaikovsky’s Wife”, by Kirill Serebrennikov, or the setting for a passion for suffering

Ekaterina Ermishina in


Escaped for just a few months from the open-air jail that is becoming Russia, where he was prosecuted and assigned to residence since 2017, the filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov, 52, returns to Cannes through the front door of the competition, after having been successively praised there for Leto (2018) and Petrov Fever (2021).

Man of the theater (he is also on his way to Avignon, where he will go up in July The Black Monkby Anton Chekhov) and feverish director, incessantly on the go, he is with Andreï Zviaguintsev a major representative of contemporary Russian cinema and a worthy epigone of its great humanist tradition, both lyrical and enraged.

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Interested for a long time in the figure of the composer Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), around whom he maintained a project that never came to fruition, he achieves his goal today by resorting to a matrimonial hook, centering his subject on Antonina Milioukova ( 1848-1917), the musician’s wife, and, through her, on the disastrous marriage which unites, before quickly disuniting, this couple.

“Tchaikovsky’s Wife” is no more a feminist plea than a music-loving biopic

Despite its incipit, which evokes the sad fate of women in 19th-century Russiaand century, we will allow ourselves to think that Tchaikovsky’s Wife is no more a feminist plea than a music-loving biopic. Beyond the question of its historical-biographical accuracy, on which the film critic will not venture to express an opinion, we will say more essentially that this film is one of the most powerful allegories ever made on the immemorial alienation of the people. Russian to a power that has never thought of anything other than enslaving it.

Tchaikovsky’s Wife opens with the funeral of the composer, who, when his wife appears, gets up from the bed to tell her how much he hates her. The film then goes back in time to introduce us to the strangest relationship imaginable, under the poisonous auspices of sacrifice, cruelty and maceration.

The staging, between realism and oneirism, distills, in heady sequence shots, this mephitic atmosphere, precipitate of mental suffering filmed as from the inside of a jar. We won’t get out of it.

existential vertigo

A young girl from a modest background whose mother is a formidable shrew who prefers Mendelssohn (the specialists will say if she has better taste than her daughter), Antonina Milioukova (Alyona Mikhailova) becomes infatuated with Tchaikovsky (Odin Biron) during a meeting in a social salon. She enrolls at the conservatory to approach him, quickly throws herself at his head, declares an absolute love flame for him, claims to be the woman of his life or nothing.

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