Cannes 2022 Screening Notes: Tchaikovsky’s Wife Is Beguiling

The film is a portrait of intense madness and obsession
Cannes 2022 Screening Notes: Tchaikovsky’s Wife Is Beguiling

Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
Writer: Kirill Serebrennikov
Odin Biron, Elenev Nikita, Ekaterina Ermishina, Philipp Avdeev, Aloyna Mikhailova
Vladislav Opelyants 
Yuriy Fedorov

Tchaikovsky's Wife is a feverish, hypnotic, beguiling film about a disobedient woman. The film is set in 19th century Russia and focuses on the deeply dysfunctional marriage between the legendary Swan Lake composer and his wife Antonina Miliukova – a former music student who becomes obsessed with him. When he first visits her in her apartment, she threatens to kill herself if they don't marry and her passion only grows more lunatic. She refuses to either accept that her husband might be interested in men or accuse him of infidelity so that they can be divorced (required at the time for separation), even after he says that he finds her repellent and sets fire to their bed to get her out of it.

Antonina could have come off as a more elegant and ennobled version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Shah Rukh Khan in Darr but dissident Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov builds her inexplicable infatuation into a sort of grand defiance. Antonina, played with brilliant manic intensity by Alyona Mikhailova, becomes heroic in her persistence. It is difficult to understand what led to such madness (she died in an insane asylum) but it is admirable.

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