May 14, 2022

The Asthenic Syndrome (1989)

The Asthenic Syndrome is a 1989 Soviet drama film directed by Kira Muratova. It is the sixth feature film directed by Muratova, and arguably her masterpiece, most important film and best known film. The film was entered into the 40th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear - Special Jury Prize. It won the 1991 Nika Award in Russia. In the list of the hundred best Ukrainian films according to film critics, compiled in 2021, the film takes 6th place. The film caused a mixed reaction from critics and the party leadership of the country. Released in limited release. The first Soviet film in which obscene language was used.

In the old days it was called hypochrondria, or black melancholia. Now, apparently, it's termed the Asthenic Syndrome. Whatever it is, Nikolai, a teacher has got it, and it's not much fun.
Freddy and Krasnaya Movie Review

K: Well, we watched the last film by Kira Muratova, chosen for our theme week - The Asthenic Syndrome. It's like a movie within a movie. In the first part, black and white, or rather dirty brown, is the story of a woman who buried her loved one, in the second, colored, or rather pale color, is the story of a teacher who, after a deep nervous shock, falls asleep on the go.

F: Hiya! You just gave away the most surprising moment of this movie! I wasn't expecting at all that transition to color after watching the 4 previous movies by Kira Muratova. For a 1989 Soviet movie, I think this scene was really outstanding and humorous. I can't remember a movie doing it before 1989, but I'm sure there are some. I enjoyed the first part a lot. The feelings and actions of Natalia (Olga Antonova) were interesting to follow. Even while touching Muratova's favorite subject, "death", it was very soft and light in comparison with the second part of the movie.

Asthenic Syndrome Bus
Beautiful shot.
K: Kira Muratova, it seems to me, was able, with the help of unusual cinematic techniques, to show the absurdity and hopelessness of life at the turn of eras. Around aggression, terrible poverty, dullness, homeless animals in the slaughterhouse, ugly, poorly dressed people... If I had not lived in the 90s in our country, I would have decided that Muratova invented all this and that is why the film left me with so much sadness. I constantly scrolled in my head the question of how my family was able to survive this time and remain indifferent. Probably because Kira Muratova does not sign the most severe sentence for each individual person, in this film, there is a place for mercy both to man and to animal.

F: I was able to draw some laughs from the Nikolai (Sergei Popov) story, but mostly I found dread in it. It was psychologically uncomfortable to watch the lives of people go by. The late years of soviet society are portrayed as a mad house with no hope at all. Sometimes it feels like we are watching a documentary in Muratova's movies. We can't separate fact from fiction. We can't understand if the people on screen are real actors or just ordinary folk. I also can't find out where the movie was filmed. Which city and subway stations are we seeing? Maybe it's not supposed for us to know, and understand that the Soviet Union wouldn't differ much from place to place.

Shakespeare Asthenic Syndrome
My favorite comedy moment. See it below our ratings.
K: I can't say that almost everyone should watch this movie. But in any case, having decided to watch it, get ready not for a relaxing moment, but for serious work.

F: This movie is heavy. I couldn't understand half of it. People speak too fast sometimes and they just pour out a sea of information on top of you while you are still thinking about the previous scene. Hell, as a non-Russian speaker, I would say that most Kira Muratova movies need at least 3 to 4 visualizations to understand half of it! These are movies that need to be studied so they're not made for easy-going cinema viewers. This movie in particular had a scene that just elevated it to a whole new level and brought me an ineffable feeling. That's the scene with the dogs. After all the tragicomedy witnessed previously, when this comes in, it hits hard like a hammer. To all cinema lovers and students, Kira Muratova's movies are a must watch. She will mess you up with her unique surrealism and confusing hyperreality. That's it for this week's theme. I think I'm going to miss Muratova's usual cast; they were becoming like a family. Be sure to check with us on Monday to find out which movies we are watching next week.

Soviet Boobies Compilation
Kira left us a boobies compilation for our collection!
Freddy's Score: 65/100
Krasnaya's Score: 45/100



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