Issue 69 (2020)

Anna Parmas: Another Woman (Davai razvedemsia! 2019)

reviewed by Ellina Sattarova © 2020

davaite razvedemsiaAnna Parmas’s romantic comedy Another Woman premiered at the 30th edition of the Kinotavr film festival, where it received the Gorin Prize for best script and the prize for best debut film. The film, however, is only nominally a debut. Parmas had years of experience in the industry behind her back when she started work on the film. In the late 1990s-early 2000s she produced and directed several installments of a popular TV series Caution, Modernity! (Ostorozhno, modern!). She co-wrote three of Avdot'ia Smirnova’s films, Two Days (Dva dnia, 2011), Kokoko (2012), and The Story of an Appointment, aka The Tolstoy Defense (Istoriia odnogo naznacheniia, 2018). Parmas also contributed mini-novellas to anthology films Petersburg: Only for Love (Peterburg. Tol'ko po liubvi, 2016) and Yolki 7 (Elki poslednie, 2018). She is perhaps best known, however, for the music videos she directed for the band Leningrad.[1] These videos, each a short film in its own right, collected more than 500 million views on YouTube.

davaite razvedemsiaAnother Woman is a humorous take on a marriage coming apart. Masha (Anna Mikhalkova) is a successful gynecologist; she is working three jobs so that the family could pay off mortgage debt. Her husband Misha (Anton Filipenko) is a stay-at-home dad; he is in charge of childcare and housework and does not seem to mind. He is, however, irritated by the fact that Masha does not spend much time with the family; he casts disapproving looks at his wife at dinnertime while she answers phone calls from the hospital. About ten minutes into the film, we find out (together with Masha) that her husband has sought and found affection elsewhere—he has been having an affair with his fitness trainer. The ensuing fight ends with an upset Misha packing up his things and leaving Masha in charge of their two children. Not too much happens afterwards. A grieving Masha gets drunk with her friends and forgets to pick up the children from the kindergarten. Her mother shows up to help with the kids and ends up lecturing Masha on how she “has let herself go.” Misha takes on the familiar role of a nurturer—he is now taking care of his lover’s grandmother. Ready to move on, Masha has an awkward sexual encounter with a police officer (Fedor Lavrov) she has befriended. Misha in the meantime finds a job but has a work accident and ends up in a hospital. Soon the inevitable happens; Misha and Masha have sex when the latter comes to check up on her husband. Masha gets pregnant, and we find ourselves at a crossroads. Are Misha and Masha meant to be together, as their similar sounding names intimate? Or are the two meant to part ways; in other words, does the film title (“let’s get divorced” in literal translation) give away the ending even before the film starts?

davaite razvedemsiaThe title does indeed give us all the information we need. It is a playful allusion to a Channel One Russia TV show, Let’s Get Married (Davai pozhenimsia), which has been on air since 2008 and communicates an uncomplicated message: heterosexual marriage is the road to happiness (or at the very least the desirable social norm). Parmas’s romantic comedy (or an anti-romantic comedy, as critics have dubbed it) has a somewhat different agenda. The film reverses from the very beginning traditional gender roles, assigning the role of breadwinner to Masha and the role of nurturer and caretaker to her husband. The film’s play with gender stereotypes provides the basis for much of the comedy throughout the film, as, for example, in the sequence in which the hypermasculine Bruce Willis-channeling police officer proves to be impotent. Yet these reversals are unlikely to be simply a vehicle for comedy. Several commentators have described Parmas’s picture as a feminist film (see Belik 2019; Gladil'shchikov 2019; Taezhnaia 2019). “Feminist,” however, is not always meant as a compliment in contemporary Russia. An unimpressed critic, Dmitrii Sosnovskii, wrote that the film’s key message is this: “It is crystal-clear that there is absolutely no point in tolerating the presence of these wearisome creatures [men]” (Sosnovskii 2019).

davaite razvedemsiaThe film’s heroine Masha does eventually decide that she is happiest on her own. The film’s gender politics, however, is muddled by the fact that at the very end of the film Parmas restores the gender status quo. When Misha goes back to work, he stumbles upon a treasure, in the most literal sense of the word. He uses the money to start his own business—a residential care home (he is still a “nurturer” but now he employs people to do the actual “caring”), to pay off mortgage, and to pay for Masha’s vacation. At the very end of the film we see her pregnant, lying on a deckchair next to a rooftop pool; right beside her are her two children. Now that Misha has reclaimed the role of the breadwinner, she can finally get some rest and quietly enjoy motherhood. The film “bravely” suggests at some point that it is ok to eat ice cream for dinner with your children if you do not have the time to cook. In the final analysis, however, its gender politics is not a lot more progressive than that of the TV show that inspired its title.


Notes

1] For a discussion of the music videos and Leningrad’s “political aesthetics of imperfection,” see Engström 2018.

Ellina Sattarova,
University of Pittsburgh

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Works Cited

Belik, Ol'ga. 2019. “‘Davai razvedemsia!’: Anna Mikhalkova teriaet muzha.” KinoPoisk (13 June)

Engström, Maria. 2018. “Conservative imperfection: The visual aesthetics of Leningrad.” Intersection (4 January).

Gladil'shchikov, Iurii. 2019. “Kinosobytie: Bez menia tebe liubimyi moi,” RFI (22 November)

Sosnovskii, Dmitrii. 2019. “Ia sama,” Rossiiskaia gazeta (20 November).

Taezhnaia, Alisa. 2019. “‘Davai razvedemsia!’: Smeshnoi romkom o tom, shto luchshe byt' v razvode, chem neschastnoi.” The Village(20 November).


Another Woman, Russia, 2019
Color, 92 minutes
Director: Anna Parmas
Scriptwriter: Anna Parmas, Mariia Shul'gina, Elizaveta Tikhonova 
DoP: Levan Kapanadze
Editing: Iuliia Batalova
Production design: Anna Kozlova, Valeriia Dergacheva
Cast: Anna Mikhalkova, Anton Filipenko
Producers: Sergei Sel'ianov, Natal'ia Drozd-Makan, Konstantin Ernst

Anna Parmas: Another Woman (Davai razvedemsia! 2019)

reviewed by Ellina Sattarova © 2020

Updated: 2020