Thursday, May 26, 2011


This is definitely one of my favorite Russian films (behind Repentance) and the darkest film I have seen in a while.  It was a hit at many Russian festivals when it was released in 2009, winning Best Film, Best Actress and Special Mention awards.  This harrowing film follows the relationship of an alcoholic mother and her displaced daughter told through the eyes of the latter.  The film has a realistic and linear storyline but contains a large quantity of formalistic shots that makes the story and themes universal.

Volchok has two different translations in English that are each expressed in its own light.  The first translation, “wolfy”, refers to a story the mother told her daughter where she was walking through the forest and found a wolf in a bag.  This directly relates to the mother’s despicable relationship with her daughter.  The wolf is left hopelessly screaming in the bag, trapped as the mother walks away.  The other translation, “spinning top”, is used as a symbol for the daughter.  The daughter is always loyal to her mother, spinning and waiting for her maternal attention, yet she receives no response.  At the end of the film the top spins and spins, and with a single misguided grain in the table, the top is flung off of the table into the darkness below.  This directly represents the daughter’s finale as she is ever-so-slightly spun to her death, resulting from the misguided attempts of trying to win over her hopeless mother’s affection.

The cinematography of Volchok looked quite effortless and added greatly to the underlying themes.  The impersonal characterizations of the mother and daughter further show the divisions between the two and were displayed technically by the types of shots used.  For example, the daughter is always shot with a barrier between her and the screen.  Be it something she is holding, a window, or the table she so frequently hides under, her hidden body is symbolic of her great distance from any connection to reality.  The only friend she has is the dead boy she befriends at the cemetery.  Not even her mother seems to care about her.  Every night she waits by the window for her mother to return home.  The window frames her imprisonment as she sits, flashing the lights, feeling like an exile on a faraway island with no rescue in sight.  Yet she waits and vies for her mother’s love until the very end when it is too late to go back and create a happier life.

Volchok brings up many themes throughout the film.  The first is alcoholism which is the cause of the mother’s horrid spells and unfocused attention towards her daughter.  Another theme is a negative attitude towards men.  There are very few male characters in the film, and the only ones shown are the mother’s easily disposable sexual partners.  The pre-adolescent point of view of the film is prevalent here because the daughter references these men as “uncles” yet is unsure why so many visit her house.

Volchok can be rather intense, but overall is a great film that addresses a variety of issues that will plague relationships until the end of time.

Simple Strawberry-Orange Smoothie
3/4 cup orange juice
5/4 cups frozen strawberries (fresh will do- just add more ice)
2 Tbs. honey (or more...)
1/2 cup ice cubes
for creaminess add 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

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