Color, 110 minutes
Russian with English subtitles
Director: Larisa Sadilova
Screenplay: Larisa Sadilova
Cinematography: Anatolii Petriga
Art Director: Manzura Ul'dzhabaeva
Cast: Marina Zubanova, Aleksei Makarov, Viktoriia Isakova, Ira Shipova, Raisa Riazanova, Valerii Barinov
Producer: Vladimir Tiurin
On its surface, Larisa Sadilova's third feature film since her acclaimed 1998 debut, Happy Birthday!, is only peripherally about race and ethnicity: a woman, Galia, arrives from rural northern Russia and is hired as a nanny for the daughter of a well-to-do (and honest) family, also Russian. The family does employs a group of Uzbek builders, who are living on their plot of land while doing renovations, but for the first quarter of the film or so they are indeed a peripheral presence, as Sadilova focuses on the relat ionship between Galia, the child, and the parents.
After overhearing the couple making disparaging remarks about her appearance, the nanny begins to spiral inexorably towards more and more treacherous acts, including turning the girl into a death-obsessed bully, plotting to sabotage her employers' marriage, and extorting money. What at first seems like an increasingly out-of-control vendetta based on class antagonism, however, soon encompasses every character in the film, including the Uzbeks, who in fact suffer the most permanent damage at the hands of Galia as she transforms into a monster (as cinematic nannies are not unknown to do).
By the last act of the film, an earlier scene in which Galya makes the girl throw away an Uzbek skullcap that the foreman gave her as a gift ("it's an alien thing," she tells her) is revealed as essential to the portrayal of the nanny. The diametrically opposed treatment of the builders by Galia (the provincial) and the couple (the bourgeoisie) emerges by the end of the film as a central moral axis (the final scene reinforces the significance of the Uzbek subplot). It is an axis that Sadilova calibrates in a way that would have been unthinkable in Soviet cinema, with its obligatory emphasis on the integrity and essential righteousness of simple Russian folk, peasant women in particular.
Larisa Sadilova was born in 1965 in Briansk. In 1986 she graduated from the acting department of the Soviet State Filmmaking Institute (VGIK), where she studied in the workshop of Sergei Gerasimov and Tamara Makarova. She has acted in the films Lev Tolstoi (dir. Sergei Gerasimov, 1984), The Night (dir. Gennadii Sidorov, 1990), and Not to Forget, Not to Forgive. Her debut feature, Happy Birthday, was shown at the first Russian Film Symposium in 1999. After receiving numerous awards at home and abroad for that film, Sadilova's second effort, With Love, Lilly, also fared well, winning the grand prix at the Rotterdam Film Festival.