Individualism isn’t a characteristic necessarily valued in many societies. Indeed, people who are considered different are often viewed as strange, outsiders, weirdos, perverts or troublemakers. The rise of nationalism around the world has led to a rise in conformity. This is especially the case in Russia. With Vladimir Putin (in all but name) controlling most of the country’s media and press outlets, dissent or difference is often considered dangerous. Whether that’s to the church or the state. Russian director Ivan I. Tverdovskiy new film Zoology focusses on someone who suddenly discovers she’s different.
Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova) is an unmarried woman in her late forties who lives with her domineering mother (Irina Chipizhenko) in a small coastal town. Bullied by her co-workers, Natasha spends much of her time at the zoo talking to the animals. After being taken ill, she gets a shock but falls for her handsome radiologist (Dmitriy Groshev) who is sympathetic towards her new circumstances. As gossip in the town about sightings of witches or demons grows, she finds herself coming out of her shell.
Tverdovskiy’s second film is an ingenious satire and allegory on modern Russia. Natasha is treated like an outsider before anything happens to her, but she becomes increasingly shunned, isolated,abused and marginalised. The attraction Peter (her radiologist) has towards her is mostly based on what makes her different. Not the person she is inside. Natalya Pavlenkova is brilliant in the role. Throwing herself fully into the character and embodying her loneliness. Zoology will not be to everyone’s taste but it’s an intelligent socio-political treatise on the dangers of conformity.
Zoology is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Academy on 30 October.