Published Sep 19, 2011Undoubtedly a sharp criticism of Russian institutional apathy and social corruption, Angelina Nikonova's challenging and frequently unsettling Twilight Portrait becomes both problematic and intriguing when considered from a feminist and psychological standpoint, depicting a woman's unique reaction to being gang raped.
This happens early in the film, when burnt-out, upscale social worker Marina (Olga Dihovichnaya) is attacked by three cops after being robbed and treated like crap outside of a flat where she's just screwed her best friend's husband, Valery (Sergei Golyudov). The act isn't shown, but the aftermath is with her standing up, dirtied and dripping semen, then returning home and keeping the violating act to herself.
From here on out, Marina's psychology remains a mystery. She expresses her own form of apathy towards her clients, suggesting that there is really no point in helping an abused child that is just going to grow up and repeat the same inevitable cycle, which suggests defeat and resignation to the world surrounding her.
This partially justifies the latter half of the film, wherein Marina finds one of the cops (Sergei Borisov), following him home with a broken bottle, which implies vengeance, only to start up a peculiar and somewhat degrading affair with him instead. She cooks him meals, scrubs his bathtub and gets close to his working class family in their grungy apartment.
Since she's only seen in the dark, this is obviously a hint at her titular "twilight portrait," noting either a masochistic attraction to degradation or a sense of empowerment in controlling the situation on her terms, making his consent to the act his form of penance or victim hood. Regardless, Marina's motivations and internal rationale are left for debate right up to the final moment of the film.
It's an interesting approach to a topic often handled with a very specific and logical morality, making memorable and challenging a film with an unsettling, realist sensibility. (Baraban Films)