The Bear’s Kiss

[Медвежий поцелуй]

The Bear's Kiss film still

Russia/ Germany/ Sweden/ Spain/ France/ Italy, STW/ Pandora/ et al., 2002, 94 minutes, Color
In English, Italian, and Spanish
Director: Sergei Bodrov, Sr.
Screenplay: Sergei Bodrov, Sr., Carolyn Cavallero, Terrence Malick (uncredited)
Camera: Xavier Perez Grobet, Sergei Astakhov
Music: Gia Kancheli
Art Direction: Maria Haard, Yosune Lasa, Gregor Mager, Elena Zhukova
With: Rebecka Liljeberg, Joachim Krol, Sergei Bodrov, Jr., Keith Allen

Lola is a sullen, misfit teenager in a family of European circus performers. Surrounded by eccentric, often drunk adults, her only friend is a Siberian bear named (what else) Misha, a gift from her father. Lola discovers one morning that Misha is in reality (or at least in her reality) a shape-shifting man. At this point, the film becomes particularly indebted to the archetypal, folkloric animal-groom narrative. As in that tradition, the film uses the suitor's dual biological status as a metaphor for the girl's transition from one stage of life to the next, for the adolescent's simultaneous desire for a warm, paternal chest on which to chastely rest her head, and a hairless, muscular lover. When Misha asks her whether she wants him as a bear or a man, Lola responds sincerely that she wants both. That solution becomes increasingly untenable as the film progresses and culminates in a series of fateful (and fatal) choices that the lovers must make.

The Bear's Kiss film still

One of the most notable elements of the film is the varied music, both diegetic and extra-diegetic; the soundtrack and the on-screen musical performances reflect the itinerant life of the circus people as they move across Europe, from Russia to Sweden, across Germany, and, finally, to Spain. Both the thematics and the tone of the film are something of a departure for Bodrov, who has favored a broader socio-political and historical perspective in his previous work. The film also testifies to the director's increasingly international (read: non-Russian) thematic interests. Ultimately, the highly Euro-clectic Bear's Kiss might be most concisely described as a minor-key hybrid of motifs from Beauty and the Beast, King Kong, La Strada, and Born Free.

The director's son, Sergei Jr., makes his final screen appearance in the film. In light of his death in an avalanche in 2002, it is worth noting that his swan song role in Bear's Kiss—as a captive with whom his captor's young daughter falls in love—echoes the role he played in his screen debut, in his father's 1996 film Prisoner of the Mountains.

Sergei Bodrov, Sr.

Sergei Bodrov, Sr. photo

Sergei Bodrov, Sr. was born in 1948. After graduating from the State Filmmaking Institute in Moscow, he worked at Kazakhfilm Studios, where he was active in promoting the work of the Kazakh New Wave. He taught at his alma mater from 1991 to 1992. He has also guest-taught at UCLA and other universities in the US and Europe. In addition to scripting his own films, Bodrov has written or co-written screenplays for numerous other films, including Regis Wargnier's East-West (1999). He was named European Screenwriter of the Year in 1996. Most recently, Bodrov co-wrote and produced Kazakh director Gul'shad Omarova's 2004 film The Schiz: Fifty-Fifty.

1984 Sweet Juice of the Grass
1985 Non-Professionals
1986 I Hate You
1989 S.E.R. – Freedom is Paradise
1989 The Gambler
1992 I Wanted to See Angels
1992 White King, Red Queen (Russians)
1996 Prisoner of the Mountains
1999 Running Free
2001 The Quickie
2002 Bear’s Kiss
2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company

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