Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Betrayals of the heart, both literal and figurative, lie at, well, the heart of Kirill Serebrennikov and Natalia Nazarova's absorbing tale of obsession, which although initially displaying realist hallmarks, soon comes to have a serious flirtation with the surreal that makes for an unsettling atmosphere, even if it doesn't quite succeed narratively.

The setting is anonymous and the characters nameless, representing every(wo)men, with She (Franziska Petri, in a magnetic performance) a cardiologist who, in the middle of examining He (Dejan Lilic), tells him that his wife is having an affair with her husband. Given that things seem perfectly happy at home with his wife (Albina Dzhanabaeva), He is sceptical but gradually becomes convinced. She, on the other hand, witnesses all the tell-tale signs of betrayal from her husband (Andrei Shchetinin), who comes home late and disinterested and sleeps as She masturbates beside in him in the night.

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As He becomes increasingly convinced of his wife's infidelity, in a bid for anger and revenge the betrayed pair begin to consider a perfectly mirrored affair of their own. This relationship is a product not of a lust for one another but an overhwelming desire for their spouses to be done by as they did. What happens next flips things into increasingly bizarre realms as Serebrennikov conceals facts from the audience, letting the psychological game-playing bite. But just as we are settling in to the hard-boiled Hitchcock vibe, he introduces absurdist, playful elements and theatrics - from a cop (Guna Zarina) who feels as though she may be more figment than fact to a moment when the passage of several years is shown as a shedding of one 'skin' and the adoption of another.

Serebrennikov's universe is fluid and flexible, able to be twisted to match the emotional landscape being navigated by his characters. But the move forward in time is a big leap to expect of an audience and one that will prove frustrating for some, forced abruptly to cope with a new set of circumstances as Serebrennikov's morality tale contorts itself into ever more surprising shapes. This element of surprise, however, along with a Petri's masterful blend of vulnerability and steel in the central role - one minute femme fatale, the next reduced to eating compost in a fit of self-loathing - is what makes Betrayal so compelling. Serebrennikov's film may be sometimes confusing, sometimes confounding and somewhat disappointing in the neatness of its ending, but there's no denying his talent.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2013
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After discovering that their spouses are having an affair, two people decide to have one themselves.

Director: Kirill Serebrennikov

Writer: Kirill Serebrennikov, Natalia Nazarova

Starring: Franziska Petri, Dejan Lilic, Albina Dzhanabaeva, Arturs Skrastins, Andrei Shchetinin, Guna Zarina

Year: 2012

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: Russia


EIFF 2013

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