Thursday, 10 November 2011

Larisa Sadilova: Happy Birthday - С днём рождения! (1998)

Director: Larisa Sadilova
Writer: Larisa Sadilova
Cast: Patrick Baehr, Gulya Stolyarova,Irina Prosyina

Awards :
Grand Prix, Créteil International Women's Film Festival, 1999
FIPRESCI Prize, Cottbus Film Festival of Young East European Cinema, 1998
Best Debut, Festival Kinotavr, Sochi, 1998

Larisa Sadilova's award-winning Happy Birthday, 1998 lies in that rich and underexplored ground between non-fiction and fiction. Set in a Russian maternity ward, S dniom rozhdenia documents daily life at the ward and discusses the social issues which arise there. The film is also a finely acted and well balanced piece of story-telling and is indicative of the suprisingly strong state of Russian cinema.

S dniom rozhdenia is framed by wintry sequences showing the closing of the maternity ward, which acts as the film's central star; a mournful contrast to the summery humorous shots running throughout the rest of the film. Employing professional and non-professional actors, Sadilova, who herself trained as an actress, follows five women who have just given birth and uses their story as a vehicle for both a detailed description of life in a maternity ward and a quirky caricature of life in Russia.

Finely characterised, her heroines are real and human, and their weakness and strengths portray a depth and feeling which go beyond mere description. Sadilova embraces both the idealism and the realism of giving birth. Indeed, the mismatch between the two often provides the charm in this film. In one scene, a nurse takes the bottles of champagne the ward staff have been presented with back to the shop to resell them; at the end of the film, when an overly enthusiastic father presents the nurses with a whole crate of bubbly, we can't help wondering if these are the same bottles we saw earlier. Whatever their previous history, we know where they are going. ...

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