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Russia

Anna Parmas • Director of Another Woman

“Russian people are usually rather difficult to make laugh or to surprise”

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- We chat with the Russian filmmaker, whose hit romantic comedy Another Woman is part of the Russian Film Festival that can be enjoyed this month on the Filmin platform

Anna Parmas  • Director of Another Woman

Anna Parmas has a career as a screenwriter and director, both on television and in film. Her latest feature film, the comedy Another Woman [+see also:
interview: Anna Parmas
film profile
]
, tackles the complexity of relationships with a lot of humour. Below she details aspects of the comedy, which can be viewed on Filmin as part of its Russian Film Festival (see the news).

Cineuropa: What is the current health of the Russian comedy?
Anna Parmas: It’s better we let the audience and producers answer this question. If you want my humble opinion, I believe that the genre of comedy is on the rise in our country, life is throwing a lot of stories our way, especially in terms of dark comedy. But compared to the overall release amount, we have very few movies in this genre. I think the audience is longing for humour. That’s why whenever there’s a new comedy coming out, it normally turns out to be a commercial success.

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What do you think distinguishes Russian comedies from those in other countries?
Russian people are usually rather difficult to make laugh or to surprise. They tend to always be rather tense, suspecting some deception to be going on. And filmmaking, in fact, really is a kind of hypnotising deception. So in this case, you really need to find the right balance between truthfulness and absurdity, so that the film can be both funny and recognisable. Because the Russian type of humor is what we call “laughter through the tears”.

The lead of your film is a prodigious actress, with great comic talent. How did you cast the role? Was it already written with this actress in mind?
We had no auditions for this part. The script was written specially for Anna Mikhalkova, for the very reason you mentioned in your question: she is an outstanding actress with a great sense of humor. She really has this gift for conveying the humour that is there in the script.

Traditional roles are reversed in your film, and the woman is the character who throws herself into her work, leaving the care of the children to her husband: it is something little seen in cinema... Did this aspect scare any producer?
It is not common to see such a family on the screen, but pretty common to meet them in real life. That is why we wanted to rattle people a little bit, and let them see things as they actually are. In this regard, we were really lucky that the producers were totally on the same page as us.

Is your central character a modern anti-heroine: impulsive, drinker, clumsy…?
I don’t find these traits negative. I think they are just human. They are not making her someone “anti”. They make her a living being. And that is what makes the audience feel for her. At least in my view…

My favorite gag of the many in the film is from the woman who practices dark magic. What is your idea?
We were trying to avoid just writing jokes. We wanted to base the comic effect on the situation, its oddness and stupidity. In this sense, my favourite moment is when Masha (the main character) is crying upon her patient’s knee, while doing a gynecological  examination.

How did the public and critics in your country receive the film? Has it been seen in other territories, and what has been the public reaction there?
The audience received it very well; the critics were a more complicated kind of story. Because they very clearly fell into two different categories: the fans and the haters. I guess it means we really managed to bring up an important topic.

What are some of your teachers and film references you return to in your work?  
My main mentor and inspiration is director and screenwriter Avdotia Smirnova. She is the one who helped me a big deal, giving advice and tons of support.  Everything I managed to get done so far, I owe to her. And things I haven’t got done yet, I owe to myself.

Any new project in sight: comedy or another genre?
Yes, I do have some ideas of what my next movie is going to be like. And most probably, it is going to be a comedy again. And again, it is very likely to be the story of a woman trying to find herself. This time, in the middle of the Siberian taiga.

How important is the Russian Film Festival for the promotion of Russian content and Russian talents on the international markets?
I believe any kind of promotion of Russian talent abroad to be a great thing!

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