Sunday, 17 April 2011
Lidia Bobrova: Granny - Бабуся (2003)
Stars:Nina Shubina, Olga Onishchenko, Anna Ovsyannikova
Audience Award Paris International Film Festival, France, 2003
Best actress Anna OVSIANNIKOVA , Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr, Russia, 2003
Grand prix du public et Prix Arte aux Rencontres internationales de cinéma à Paris 2003
Prix Don Quichotte, prix spécial du jury et prix oecuménique au Fstival de Karlovy Vary, 2003
Grand Prix du festival des festivals de Saint-Pétersbourg, 2003
Lidiia Bobrova's film Granny (Babusia) is a French co-production, which has probably affected both its clear-cut structure and linear plot development. The film tells about the life of a granny, the ‘babusia’, who raised her children, her grandchildren and the neighbour’s kids in a small Russian village. Now all of them have grown up, have made their careers, and have secured a comfortable life in the city. In many respects the achievement of such a lifestyle was assisted by the money the children received after the sale of the Babusia’s country house.
It would seem all is well, except that Babusia has nowhere to go. None of the children seems to dispose fully of the property they ‘own’ or is really free to do what they want: one depends on the husband, the other on the mistress, the third lives in Moscow without a residence permit. Babusia is taken from one house to the other, from one apartment to the next, handed around like an unnecessary, shabby object. Despite this, Babusia finds the strength to perform a miracle on her dumb grand-daughter, to whom she returns her ability to speak. The heroine herself is almost deprived words, which underlines her similarity to the icon of Mary the Virgin. The casting of a non-professional actress for the role it quite justified: she is an old woman with expressive, spiritual features.
Old age is a universal and eternal theme. For the Russian spectator it sounds different than in the West. Bobrova has created a film about life of old people, based on the realities of Russian life, without transforming the story into a parable and without endowing the events with a symbolic meaning. Alas, old age in Russia is unattractive: old people can hardly survive on their low pensions. The State, to whom they have given all their lives, is unable to provide for them and offer the necessary support. Old people are more than often no joy for their children, but a burden.
Bobrova’s picture of Russian life is based on stereotypes. Her vision of the bleak Russian provinces is colourful and reminds of a souvenir version of Russia for the visitor. The nostalgic memories of a happy past belong, however, to the cinema of the early 1990s when directors gazed at the Soviet past and mourned lost ideals, rather than to the 21st century. It is a pity that Bobrova resorts to expressive means and themes of the past. And what did she want to tell her compatriots that they do not already know from everyday life?
Reviewed by Birgit Beumers ©2003 in KinoKultura