Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama section), Feb. 20, 1994. Running time: 112 MIN.
Violetta … Svetlana Kolenda
Nurse Lila … Renata Litvinova
Kasjanov … Mikhail Demidov
Nikolayev … Vassili Rybakin
Milashevski … Alexei Schevtshenko
Amirov … Genagy Tkatshenko
Kira Muratova, the femme helmer who used to get into trouble with Soviet authorities over her very personal films, has become more obscure since the end of communism. It’s difficult to fathom what her latest, variously known as “Passions”and “Avocations,” is all about. Unless a Muratova cult develops in the West, there’ll be few bookings for this one.
The no-plot pic concentrates on people who share a passion for horses. Opening scene takes place on the grounds of a hospital near the sea. An injured jockey is recovering, though still confined to a wheelchair. Lila, a nurse, introduces him to Violetta, a kooky circus performer. The three, plus a couple of smartly dressed men who may be hospital orderlies, talk about the differences between circus horses and racehorses. There are hints of sexual innuendo in the dialogue, but nothing definite emerges.
The scene then shifts to stables and a racetrack, where gunfire is sometimes heard in the background (the scanty synopsis explains we are now in Central Asia). A fashion photographer and his slinky models pose alongside horses. The talk is still of horses, with the dialogue more obscure than ever.
References to classical literature and politics abound, but Muratova keeps her artistic cards close to her chest. Technically professional, with excellent camera work, “Passions” is a tough sell by any standard.