Close Up

20 October 2019: The Asthenic Syndrome


The Asthenic Syndrome
Kira Muratova, 1989, 153 min
Russian with English subtitles
Introduced by Elena Gorfinkel

"Muratova cleverly drags her audience through this masterpiece of glasnost by tragi-comic means, creating a window into the future of post-communist Russia through the lens of affliction – an entire society taken by the Asthenic Syndrome, once known as hypochondria. Banned by the Soviet government for obscenity, this caustic and allegorical epic uses colour and its absence to great effect, enhancing a narrative that gradually builds walls of discomfort around an imprisoned audience as it battles identification with its frustrating and frustrated protagonist." – Melbourne Cinematheque

"This has been called "a magnificent fresco", an "apocalypse" (Silver Bear, Berlin 1990). But it proved to be a diagnosis of an era. Muratova captured the state of Russia and Eastern Europe in images that are typical of an era on the eve of revolution, full of aggression and apathy. The Asthenic Syndrome is constructed like The Well-Tempered Clavier, full of polyphonous elements. The first part is in black-and-white and is a film within a film, nervously shot like Muratova’s first films. The second part is in colour and tells the story of the life of an insignificant author and literature teacher who suffocates in the dull routine of his mindless environment. Muratova’s realism is full of contrasts, irony and rage and shows every character from different sides. She presents a complete picture of personal syndromes and collective apathy, meanwhile stunning the viewer with shock therapy and destroying every illusion." – IFFR

Part of our season on Kira Muratova