with "Tchaikovsky's Wife", the Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov evokes an impossible and tragic love

with “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”, the Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov evokes an impossible and tragic love

After Leto in 2018 and Petrov Fever in 2021, the Russian dissident director Kirill Serebrennikov is in competition at the Cannes Film Festival with Tchaikovsky’s Wife. Unlike his first two selections, the director is on the Croisette this year, an event after twenty months of house arrest in Moscow. Dedicated to the tragic fate of composer Piotr Tchaikovsky’s wife, his new opus is however less convincing than his two previous films, but sparse with flashes.

In 19th century Russia, Antonina Miliukova is madly in love with the famous composer Piotr Tchaikovsky. Pressing him with her attentions, she convinces him to become her husband. But the musician abandons her, preferring the company of men. Ignored and snubbed by her husband, she nevertheless follows him into his intimate circles. Overwhelmed with love, she endures everything until the death of the composer, and will end up in an asylum.

After the birth of the Leningrad rock scene in Leto, Kirill Serebrennikov remains attached to a musical subject even if he does not deal directly with Tchaikovsky. His new film is devoted, as its title suggests, to the composer’s wife, a subject already covered in Ken Russel’s 1970 biopic, Music Lovers. Serebrennikov does not borrow the excesses of the British director, more classic, he nevertheless offers dreamlike scenes of great beauty, and audacity contrasting with more expected choices.

Vladimir Putin would not have appreciated that the dissident director exposes in his film the homosexuality of Tchaikovsky, which in his eyes taints a national icon. Moreover, the director, who has refined a very fine reconstruction of the Russia of the tsars, depicts a bloodless, muddy country, with an indigent population, despised by a frivolous aristocracy, while the potentate of Moscow is fascinated by the old regime of Saint PETERSBOURG. From this point of view, Serebrennikov always demonstrates his independence, wondering how he managed to make films, always devoted to his country, with such a critical vision.

Brave and true to history, Tchaikovsky’s Wife does not, however, arouse the enthusiasm of Leto or of Petrov Fever. It is more lukewarm, no doubt because it oscillates between boldness and classicism. But the gorgeous photography that alternates between the warmth of candle- and gas-lit interiors and the coldness of empty, freezing rooms, and Alyona Mikhailova’s tragic portrayal, redeem more conventional ideas.

Gender : historical drama
Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Actors: Odin Lund Biron, Alyona Mikhailova, Ekaterina Ermishina
Country : Russia / France / Switzerland
Duration : 2h23
Exit : shortly
Distributer : Film Tray

Summary: Russia, 19th century. Antonina Miliukova, a wealthy and brilliant young woman, married the composer Piotr Tchaikovsky. But her love for him turns to obsession and the young woman is violently rejected. Consumed by her feelings, Antonina agrees to endure everything to stay with him.

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