Sunday, 14 February 2016
Tanya is a nurse who is forced to occasionally work as a prostitute to earn enough money to survive, since she lives with her mother, a poorly paid school teacher, in an apartment. Her client, Swede Edvard, proposes her, and she accepts - however, the Soviet bureaucracy insists that she first gives a signed document of her father, who is not opposed that she leaves the country. Tanya thus goes to the apartment of her father, who left her, but he demands money for the signature. Tanya thus has sex with a client one last time, obtains a document and leaves Russia to live with Edward in Stockholm. However, she feels like a foreigner there, one guy tries to rape her while Edvard feels uneasy due to rumours that he married a prostitute. When she hears that her mother committed suicide in Russia, Tanya decides to slam her speeding car into the opposite traffic.
After the censorship of the Russian authorities subsided in the late 80s, numerous directors finally got the chance to direct films they actually wanted, and thus several taboos were broken: among them was Pyotr Todorovsky's drama "Intergirl", allegedly the first Russian film that explicitly tackled the theme of prostitution, and thus became the most visited film in Russian cinemas of 1989. While it starts frivolously, with a lot of humor (in the opening act, there are several comical moments, such as the one where the prostitutes give deliberately 'tongue-in-cheek' lame explanations at the police station - one claiming that a 100 $ bill in her purse was found in an elevator, and she thus intended to give it to authorities - or the scene where each time a topless prostitute stands up for a second in front of the jail bars, two horny boys throw money bills into her window), the second half starts to get a lot more serious and somber about its subject, illustrating how the heroine, Tanya, cannot escape her tragic fate even when she leaves her shady and selfish society, since the prejudice against her profession are everywhere (one very memorable sequence is when Tanya has to threaten some school boys from mocking her mother, their teacher). At 2.5 hours of running times, the storyline is definitely overlong and too much talkative, as well as shy (only one sex scene is depicted in the entire film, albeit implicitly) yet its biggest plus is the genuine, excellent performance by actress Elena Yakovleva, who can transverse from comic to fragile moments with ease, whereas a few hints at corruption that pervades the entire sphere of Russian society are done remarkably subtly, which overall gives power to this Russian version of "Pretty Woman".