The Voice of the Herbs

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 10, 1995. Running time: 93 MIN.

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 10, 1995. Running time: 93 MIN.

Shabunicha … Raisa Nedaschkovskaya

Lalja … Olga Sumskaya

With: S. Tarasov, V. Minjajlo, N. Savitschenko, I. Sumskaya, I. Zaslavski.

This first film by Ukrainian femme legit director Natalia Motuzko is a disappointingly prosaic treatment of an interesting theme. It may get bookings at fests impressed by its exoticism, but this tale of a sorceress and her apprentice won’t make B.O. music.

Set in a remote and timeless past, in lush countryside, “The Voice of the Herbs” is apparently inspired by Ukrainian legends about witchcraft. A beautiful , middle-aged witch takes a lovely teenage girl as her disciple and painstakingly initiates her into the mysteries of her art, while a couple of winged men observe them from a distance.

Motuzko rigorously avoids sensational elements, though there’s some nudity; her aim is to capture an aspect of Ukrainian folklore in a leisurely, poetic style. But she never manages to weave the magic her compatriot, the late Sergei Paradzhanov, achieved in his vividly visual films about folklore; “Herbs” is static and visually uninteresting.

Production credits are modest, and little demand is placed on the actors, who just go through the motions.

The Voice of the Herbs

(UKRAINIAN)

Production: A Novaja Odesskaya Film and Video Studio production. Directed, written by Natalia Motuzko.

Crew: Camera (color), Vladimir Vernigor; editor, I. Kondogeorgi; production design, Vladimir Jevsikov; costume design, O. Oborotovoj.

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