Dostoyevsky’s story of obsessive love and control, “The Meek One,” gets a problematic updating in “Rakushka,” a moodily lensed but needlessly over-worked version set in contempo Athens. Free adaptation sits well among the city’s now ethnically diverse community and will interest students of the Russo writer, but scattered fest outings look like its main audience.
Middle-aged Greek pawnshop owner Vasilis (Kostas Kalokairinos) becomes fascinated by a young Russian cellist, Zoya (newcomer Milana Yusupova), when she comes looking for funds for her conservatory studies. But when she finally marries him, Vasilis morphs from kindly protector to domineering husband, gradually breaking her spirit. The crunch comes when Zoya hears her mother is remarrying back in Tashkent and Vasilis won’t let her travel there. The icily contained Kalokairinos is good as the man with a disgraced past, and Yusupova makes the most of her largely passive role — far more, in fact, than Dominique Sanda did in Robert Bresson’s modern French adaptation, “Une femme douce” (1969). But a confusing flashback structure that’s only clarified at the end is needlessly arty, and pic’s wintry, DV palette doesn’t help emotionally. Title is Russian for “Cockleshell.”