RFF7 Chronicle: Betrayal / Измена (2012)
When a cardiologist, having attached sensors to her patient’s chest, casually informs him that their spouses are having an affair with each other, the viewer is invited to step into a weird, dreamlike universe of Kirill Serebrennikov’s latest film Betrayal / Измена. The director explores the trauma of infidelity, mingling Eros and Thanatos in a vaudevillian manner: in Betrayal, the concepts of unfaithfulness and death are intimately related in every of the turning points of the story.
Betrayal came out to be very distanced from Russian geographical and social realities, having archetypal characters and a universal situation at its core. Serebrennikov is always scolded by domestic critics for trying to adopt an artistic approach of a Westernizer to portraying the great and mystifying Russian soul (Yuri’s Day, 2011). If it was ever the case, Betrayal definitely lacks this conflict and rises above any national labels.
As Serebrennikov remarked during the Q&A, it was his deliberate choice not to work with well-known Russian actors, first of all because they are shy to get naked in front of the camera, second – he didn’t want easily recognisable faces to inhabit his film. As a result the main heroine is played by German actress Francizka Petri, and the main hero – by a Macedonian theatre actor Dejan Lilic, and their alien appearances and style of performance contribute enormously to the otherworldly atmosphere of Betrayal.
Betrayal was received quite coldly domestically and praised abroad; as for us, it appears to be just the right blend of arthouse, absurd and thriller to engage diverse audiences and to assert Serebrennikov as an important figure within the new Russian cinema, as well as a very decent export filmmaker.