Test Of Tolerance: A Phantasmagoric Story About A Woman With A Tail

The 51th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary ended. A film called “Zoology” by young director Ivan Tverdovsky (27) obtained a special prize in the main competition. It is a tragi-fantastical story about a lonely, middle-aged woman from a small town in Russia who discovers that she has suddenly grown a tail ...

It is rather difficult to be different from other people. Certainly, if we consider this issue from a historical perspective, it is easier to be different today than it used to be, since the level of tolerance has relatively increased. However, we are still very far away from perfection. Ivan Tverdovsky‘s film is dedicated to this very matter. The main character of the film is Natalia, a tired middle-aged woman who lives with her mother and works as an average employee at the local zoo. She is a low ranker, an humble person who is all too easy to bully. One day, Natalia discovers that she has grown a tail, and it becomes a difference for which she will have to pay! People around her start seriously harassing her; it even comes to a fit of hysterics. However, at that point she meets a man with whom she has a relationship, even though it is a rather weird one. She has to go through shame, hope, and despair in order to find herself.

Official trailer

According to the creators and the leading actress, the major purpose of this film is to draw people’s attention to the necessity of loving a fellow human being, no matter who he or she is.

We would like to know the opinion of the leading actress, Natalia Pavlenkova, and the director, Ivan Tverdovsky. What did you want to get across with this film? Is the film about the absence of tolerance, and society’s suppression of people who are different?     

Natalia Pavlenkova, the actress who played the role of Natalia, says, “In my opinion, it is a movie about love and patience. It is necessary to remember that the same people, or not quite the same people, are living next door, and it is important not to judge anyone, to be tolerant, to be considerate. Do not judge, but love the fellow human being, no matter what kind of person he or she is.

Ivan: I absolutely agree. This is a story about the fact that all of us are different, and every person deserves to be loved. This film is about a need for real, spiritual love and the effort to acquire it.

Ivan I. Tverdovskiy, Natalia Pavlenkova, Natalia Mokritskaya, Guillaume De Seille 

Ivan, you directed this film and also wrote the script for it. How did you manage to bring the initial idea to life on the screen?

Ivan: The story turned out to be very complicated. Initially, we envisioned “Zoology” as a black comedy. However, in the course of working with the idea, we discovered such a weight of social implication, that in the end it became very tragic, though we didn’t plan it that way. Everything evolved as we moved from one re-write to the next, and transformed the original concept. At first, we actually wanted to make a rather unexpected story, a film which would be very simple and easy to grasp, which would have a certain image and symbolism, like the tail on the body of the main female character. But it turned out the way it did, and we’ve come to this after going through a very trying process.

The scenery in the film is very reminiscent of the Soviet era. It creates such an atmosphere, the feeling that you are plunging into the ‘50s or ‘60s of the last century. Is this a specific reference to the past?

Ivan: We wanted to find a place which would look much like a borderland, because the leading female character has nowhere to go, she is trapped in a certain region, in a certain town, on a frontier along which she is walking. We were specifically looking for locations which were not associated with a specific town or a specific country, place, or time. In some ways this story is a universal one.

What future awaits this movie after the festival?

Natalia Mokritskaya, producer: We have concluded an agreement with a Russian company called the “Arthouse” which distributes art house films. The film will be released in November; it won’t be a wide release – 100 to 150 screens. The film is radical, the film is anything but simple, even today it provokes conflicting opinions. Unfortunately, there is no special network designed for working with such films in Russia. The world of the art film is turning into a cinema museum, its audience in Russia becomes smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, we release all the films we produce, and we do our best so that as many people as possible will get to know about them and come to the theater.

Guillaume de Saille, producer: Everything began in Sochi two weeks ago, where this film received two awards: from viewers and from critics. This will help a bit during the film’s release in Russia, and the festival in Karlovy Vary also should help, as well as three additional festivals which will take place this fall. We already have the hopeful feeling that our film will achieve both national and international distribution, although it won’t create a stir.

What’s next, Ivan? When should we expect your next movie?

Ivan: While still filming the “Zoology”, and after finishing the “Correction class”, I began conceiving a big story about the Russian police. It is a documentary, we have approximately 400-plus hours of footage. After I return home from Karlovy Vary, I’m going to proceed with film editing. We also have written a short script, we have a plot for a fiction film upon which we are currently working. I hope that we will manage to shoot it in the near future. I would very much like it to happen.


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