Contemporary World Cinema

Zoology

Ivan I. Tverdovsky

Zoology 01

A lonely and seemingly unremarkable middle-aged zoo worker redefines her life after discovering she has grown a tail, in a film that is part comedy of errors, part social satire, and part tender love story.

Following up on his multiple award–winning feature Corrections Class, Ivan I. Tverdovsky continues to focus on the humanity that inhabits non-normative bodies with his sophomore film, the modern fable Zoology, which won the Special Jury Prize at this year's Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The story of Natasha (Natalia Pavlenkova), a lonely middle-aged woman who still lives at home with her mother, unfolds in an ordinary, uneventful manner at first. Stuck behind a desk at the local zoo, ignored by her malicious, clucking colleagues, Natasha lives her solitary existence in withdrawn defeat. That is, until something unexpected turns her life upside down: one day she discovers that she has grown a tail! Forced to face a new reality, Natasha begins exploring the world around her with a determination unlike any she's had before.

As strange as it sounds, Tverdovksy's film is a tender love story — but it's also a social satire and a comedy of errors. Drawing on his background in documentary filmmaking, Tverdovsky gives the narrative a naturalistic realism that derives its strength from a nonchalant acceptance of the fantastic.

Pavlenkova gives a remarkable lead performance, for which she won the Best Actress prize at the Kinotavr Film Festival. Her animated, doll-like features draw us into a fairytale world of loneliness, otherness, and fear. But besides communicating an extreme sense of fragility, she also makes us aware that Natasha has the courage to be different.

With Zoology, Ivan I. Tverdovsky again shows himself to be a director with an original cinematic vision, an artist who does not hesitate to explore the uncommon and extraordinary in the service of great sincerity.

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