Zoology: Review (BFI London Film Festival 2016)

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Tis the season for film lovers to unite in London and immerse ourselves in fresh cinema. I’m excited! As always, there is such a wide range of films and the first viewing I attended was of Zoology or Zoologiya – its original Russian title.

Natasha, a middle-aged zoo worker who is still living with her mother sprouts a cat like tail and becomes the talk of a post-communist Russian town. From first impressions, Natasha is depicted as a lonely, virginal and lifeless soul; her female coworkers exclude her and her only friends seem to be her elderly mother and their cat. She looks frail and frumpy. A rumour spreads around the community that a woman has embodied the devil and grown a tail. Nobody knows who she is aside from Natasha, a doctor and radiologist. Apprehensive at first, these rumour frighten her, however, eventually she begins to play along with them to her own amusement, telling the gossip girls that “if you look into her eyes you will drop dead, right there and then”.

Natasha lives in a society were female expression and individuality isn’t celebrated. She is oppressed, frightened and desperate to remove this new aspect of her identity. While being sent back and forth by her doctor and radiologist, Peter, she develops a relationship with this man, who makes her feel confident and sexy.

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Natasha’s affair with Peter evolves as the relationship with her new facet does too, this results in a makeover and new image; choppy black hair, distinctive makeup and short skirts. Her confidence elevates as she begins to embody a seductive and promiscuous psyche. During a night in town with Peter, Natasha and her tail become public knowledge when it slips out from under her dress while she is dancing in a Russian club. The club crowd run away screaming, leaving broken glasses and a hurt Natasha on an empty dance floor.

Writer/director Ivan I. Tverdovskiy effectively creates a society around the protagonist where the humans behave like zoo animals – however, after her secret is finally exposed, Natasha is the one that is mistreated like an animal.

 

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