Director: Kira Muratova
Cast: Olena Kostiuk, Roma Burlaka,
For the first time since (arguably) Among Grey Stones (Sredi serykh kamnei, 1983),  Muratova offers us two fully formed, psychologically legible human beings. Muratova's Alena (Olena Kostiuk) and Nikita (Roma Burlaka) are two small runaway step-siblings in search of their respective fathers. Glancing backward at Muratova's work over decades, we cannot help but recall her portrait of the children Vasia, Marusia, and Valek in this earlier film. The similarity is reinforced by the thematics of homelessness, separation through death, and endless journey. In Among Grey Stones, that journey is primarily a symbolic one to the "center of the earth," as its citation of Jules Verne's 1864 science-fiction novel seems to suggest. In Melody, the journey is literal as well as symbolic. Its literal journey—a story of how the children move from place to place to seek Alena's father, then (failing that), Nikita's father—is in fact merely the staging ground for the retrospective unfurling of the film's backstory. In that symbolic journey, we learn how the mother had died, how the children had ended up in a children's home; how the staff had planned to transfer them to separate, distant institutions; how on Christmas Eve the two children bolted so as to avoid their impending separation.
In contrast to the pathos of these vulnerable and wholly intelligible children, Muratova pits the rest of—what we call, out of habit—humanity: thieves, delusional god-seekers, shady salesmen, petty crooks, alcoholics, larcenous mothers, two-bit gangsters, gambling addicts, flimflam artists, grifters, casino barflies, juvenile gang members, cold-hearted civil servants, jaded security guards, indifferent shopkeepers. Cumulatively, they may be recognized as Muratova's "happy and restless marionettes" (Mantsov 9), those fragmented and eccentric clusters that the filmmaker herself has referred to as "my characteristics" (Muratova, "Iskusstvo rodilos'" 94).
Reviewed by Nancy Condee © 2009 in KinoKultura