Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Elena Hazanov: La Traductrice - The Interpreter -- Игра слов: Переводчица олигарха (2006)

Director:Elena Hazanov
Writers:Mikhail Brashinsky, Elena Hazanov
Stars:Julia Batinova, Bruno Todeschini, Sergey Garmash

Ira has been brought up in Geneva after leaving Russia with her mother a decade ago. The balance between her Swiss and Russian identities is disturbed by the appearance of Oleg, a family friend, and attorney for Tashkov, a shady Russian oligarch. When Oleg hires Ira as a translator for the trial of Tashkov - who is accused of trafficking black market medicines into Russia - she gets drawn into a complex web of part lies and hidden truths which include the fate of her supposedly dead father. As she crosses the line and becomes involved on a personal level with the case, her life is changed in many ways. Who is involved in this intrigue and is there a link between her father and the enigmatic Tashkov?

Treading gently between the twin stylistic giants of French and Russian cinema, Hazenov's film revels in its duality. With funding from both Switzerland and Russia, we see the contrast between the modern monochrome of moneyed Geneva and the larger-than-life spectre of Moscow. There is also a duet of mysteries to unravel as Ira attempts to understand her past as well as retrieve evidence vital to the case. In essence though, this is a classical storyline of a female coming of age, through an understanding of the people closest to you, set against the topical backdrop of Russian oligarchy.

While the film lacks the immediacy and urgency of say, Cache, it makes up for it with a wonderful performance by Julia Batinova as Ira,trying to balance her current life with her Russian roots, and poised delicately on the balance between daughter and independent woman. Through the film she grows from innocent idealist, to someone able to make her own decisions and choices, and this is subtly reflected in both her clothing and her movements.

Early on, Batinova plays Ira as almost child-like, skipping to keep up with Swiss attorney Mayard and the sneaky pinching of fruit off a breakfast table. Later she changes, as she becomes intimately involved with Mayard and more is revealed of her past during her trip to Moscow. Although she appears as a pawn in the game throughout the film, she is on her way to becoming a queen. Equally, Hazanov is to be praised at some details which define the characters: the way that Ira sips her vodka rather than downing it, unsure of whether she can embrace the traditions she barely knows. Even the translation of the translations in this English subtitled print is clever, giving you parts of conversations so that you are left, like Mayard, momentarily in the dark. ...

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