Director: Avdotya Smirnova
Writers: Dunya Smirnova, Anna Parmas
Stars: Anna Mikhalkova, Yana Troyanova,Anna Parmas
In the morning there’s the job in the museum of ethnography, in the evening there are news on Ren-TV, and on days off there are meetings and sex with the ex-husband, a medium squad scientist. Lisa is a typical representative of the intelligentsia. Vika is a true provincial girl. For her, the holiday in Petersburg consists of vodka, parties and adventures. It seems that the two have nothing in common. However, by chance they meet and find a common ground: water and fire, a nun and a libertine, the intelligentsia and the people. Lisa and Vika are two sides of the same coin by the name of Russia. Kokoko is a never-ending comedy of Russian life! ...
Prize Cine-Club Federation of Russia, Russian programm, Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF), Russia, 2012
‘Kokoko’ explores the relationship between Petersburg ethnographer Liza (Anna Mikhalkova, l), and earthy provincial Vika (Yana Troyanova). Loneliness often leads people to the most improbable alliances. This is the case in Avdotya Smirnova’s new film, “Kokoko,” which started screening nationwide on June 14.
At first glance, as they happen to share a cabin on an overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the two thirty-something heroines seem to be antipodes: The energetic, down-to-earth, foxy, foul-mouthed and heavily made-up provincial Vika (Yana Troyanova), and the anti-glamorous St. Petersburg ethnographer Liza (Anna Mikhalkova), ever lost in thought, obsessed with charity, overweight and so neglecting of herself that her former husband (Konstantin Shelestun) cannot resist reprimanding her for not shaving her legs.
After both women are robbed on the train, the kind-hearted Liza offers Vika temporary refuge in her St. Petersburg apartment, her late artist father’s former studio. This becomes the start of a most unlikely friendship, with Vika settling in the apartment on a permanent basis.
On the surface, Smirnova is exploring a social conflict: That of a lack of understanding between the country’s working class and the intelligentsia, a conflict that has been described in Russian classics since the time of writer Ivan Turgenev and appears to be as insurmountable as Russia’s confrontation with natives from the Caucasus.
Indeed, social satire can be found in abundance in the film. Liza’s colleagues, harmless verbose researchers from the Kunstkamera museum, who have apparently read too many books about the crusades, conquests and noble missions, seek a way to do good in the modern world. They stage fierce fights over petitions calling for the release of jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, bravely face the riot police as a small group of protesters huddles together in the wind in a dwarf-sized political protest, they make donations to children’s homes — it all feels immensely noble and useful, yet all of them feel useless. “What do I really want to be doing in life?” is the sort of question that the ethnographers do not ask themselves. Vika, in contrast, is disturbingly specific and enviably explicit about her desires, although that does not help her to find a sense of perspective. For that, the young woman from Yekaterinburg is happy to rely on the more educated Liza, who, conveniently, is always more informed and seems to know better.
Yet the story that the director is exploring is really a human one. In a sense, it echoes the question posed by the main male character in Smirnova’s previous film, “Two Days:” why can’t two grown up, intelligent people who are in love with each other find peace?
Liza and Vika’s is not a love story, yet it is a story of an alliance that constantly fails because two people who need each other and care for each other deeply repeatedly fail to communicate their feelings.
“If you have to explain, that means it’s something you shouldn’t have to explain.” This quote from the Russian Silver Age poet Zinaida Gippius is all that Liza, frustrated with Vika’s tactless behavior in her apartment, utters to her flatmate. And she is never able to change this communication pattern, which is, in fact, nothing but arrogance on her part. As a result, the farcical finale, in which Liza attempts to kill Vika at night by suffocating her with a pillow — the final straw was the exasperating sound of water falling from the bronze fountain that Vika bought to celebrate getting a job in a local club, and Liza is a light sleeper — seems all the more natural.