Thursday, 11 July 2013

EIFF 2013: Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari

Bizarre doesn’t begin to cover Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari’s collection of wild and weird vignettes, filmed on location with the Mari people of remote Northern Russia by Silent Souls director Aleksey Fedorchenko. Each self-contained segment introduces a different female protagonist, and collectively the tales offer considerable variety: sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, but often some indescribable (and frequently discomforting) middle ground.

Sex and magic act as twin totems, with the Mari’s Pagan folklore parlayed into a series of vivid dramas filled with hexes and ritual: prayers are made to trees; corpses are reanimated to avenge spurned love; and in one exceptionally offbeat offering, a live bird takes up residence in a woman’s vagina after a run-in with a forest giant. At its best, the results capture something of Swedish auteur Roy Andersson’s deadpan sketches, though the comparison is perhaps over-flattering to Fedorchenko, who lacks the equivalent pathos. Instead we get bawdy oddness in spades, which ensures you won’t easily forget time spent in its company.

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