Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ivan Solovov: The Elder Wife - Старшая жена (2008)

Director: Ivan Solovov
Screenplay: Zoya Kudrya
Producer: Ivan Solovyov
Cast: Andrei Panin, Irina Rozanova, Aleksandr Domogarov, Lydia Velezheva, Alexander Bashirov

A mature, professional filmmaker Ivan Solovov belongs to a category of less known directors who combine quality filmmaking with an ability to cater to popular taste. He is largely ignored by the high-brow critics-aesthetes for never venturing into esoteric art-house and preferring his formulaic, simple, action-filled thrillers such as Caravan of Death (Karavan smerti, 1991), The Black Ocean (Chernyi okean, 1997), Hot Spot (Goriachaia tochka, 1998) and tearjerkers such as An Avalanche (Lavina, 2001) or The Railroad Romance (Zheleznodorozhnii romans, TV, 2003). At the same time he is wholeheartedly supported by the Moscow television channel programmers, those rating-buster seekers, who appreciate Solovov’s skillful use of the melodramatic form (also found in ubiquitous soap operas with their reassuring repetition of familiar emotional patterns, structures and tensions).
Peter Brooks aptly defines the following “everyday connotations” of melodrama: “The indulgence of strong emotionalism; moral polarization and schematization; extreme states of being, situations, action; overt villainy, persecution of the good, and final reward of virtue; inflated and extravagant expression; dark plottings, suspense, breathtaking peripety” (Brooks pp. 11-12). Some of these connotations appropriately describe the Solovov’s recent production Elder Wife. It schematizes the traditional heterosexual romance (although adding an “exotic” motive of polygamy as a catalyst) with a normative resolution that puts the woman in her place relative to the man within a strictly patriarchal universe.

Reviewed in KinoKultura by Andrei Khrenov © 2010

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