Lhe scene takes place ten years ago, in the office of Vladimir Medinski, the current head of the Russian delegation in the negotiations with Ukraine. The man is at the time Minister of Culture. Kirill Serebrennikov came to see him with his co-screenwriter in the hope of obtaining the essential government green light for a project close to his heart. For a long time, in fact, this director, who is also a rock’n’roll lover, has felt a deep affinity with Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky, the most glorious of Russian composers, the absolute incarnation of romanticism. So he wrote a film about his life. Medinski does not cut corners: ” Tchaikovsky was not gay. We don’t allow you to show anything related to homosexuality. And the minister concludes: We need a movie about heterosexual Tchaikovsky. »
After this episode, Kirill Serebrennikov – theater director (his black monkaccording to Chekhov, will open the next Avignon Festival) and cinema ( Leto
, 2018) – suffered a slanderous press campaign in his country. Then come the accusations of financial embezzlement which lead to his long (two years) house arrest. Since the end of March, all charges against him having been dropped and the war against Ukraine having awakened his attachment to his mother’s land, the artist has been living in Berlin. Here he is in Cannes, where he presents Tchaikovsky’s Wife, a project distinct from the one previously submitted to Medinski. He also has, in his drawers, a play about the composer – ” a portrait of his psychology, a slightly offbeat monologue “. A sign that his passion (” I read everything about him, I know what he did every day of his life “) is not about to die out…
Face to face. A frame and a light like the Russian painter Ilya Repin in Kirill Serebrennikov’s film.
In this sumptuous film (scheduled for theatrical release this summer), lit by candlelight and inspired by the paintings of Ilya Repin, Serebrennikov paints Russia in the last third of the 19th century.e century in all its contrasts. We go from muddy streets where emaciated beggars roam to elegant salons where we converse in French. Around the churches, the faithful escaped from a novel by Dostoyevsky conduct rituals close to witchcraft. Among these spirits prone to a hallucinated religiosity, there is Antonina Milioukova, a young girl among others in the audience who admire the composer, says Kirill Serebrennikov, someone quite ordinary… all this in a Russia of the XIXe century where being a woman means having no legal status, no rights, nothing. Wife is just a name in her husband’s passport “. One day, the young Antonina (played by a remarkable newcomer, Aliona Mikhaïlova) dares to write a letter to the composer (Odin Lund Biron), crossed at the conservatory of Saint-Petersburg where he teaches harmony, in which she declares her love for him. .
Tragic fate. One thinks, underlines Jérôme Bastianelli (author of a Tchaikovsky published by Actes Sud) at “ the mythical scene of the declaration of love that Tatiana writes to Eugene Onegin in the composer’s most famous opera. As in this work inspired by Pushkin’s novel, love is indeed a one-way street. Tchaikovsky tells Antonina that he will marry her but that he is incapable of experiencing passion, and that their relationship will be fraternal… In reality, he is homosexual. ” His correspondence is very clear on the subjectrecalls the biographer. With his brother Modeste, also a homosexual, they exchange letters about their respective conquests. He wrote to her elsewhere: “Our peculiarities constitute the main obstacle to our happiness.” » In a few weeks, the union turns to disaster. ” VShis marriage was a real tragedyconfirms Jérôme Bastianelli, a trauma in Tchaikovsky’s life, a great source of suffering. Echoes of this are also perceptible in his work: in the spring of 1878, he wrote a violin concerto which is like a work of consolation after so much torment. »
Antonina will have a tragic destiny, marked by the birth and abandonment of several children. The film accompanies her in her fight to remain “Tchaikovsky’s wife” despite intense pressure to accept the divorce. Surrounded by affection by his family, extolled by a music-loving society that recognizes his importance as a creator, Tchaikovsky lives in a Russia where ” many important people, including in the tsar’s entourage, were also homosexual “Notes Serebrennikov, and where the law does not interfere with privacy.“ Nina Berberova had researched the subjectsays Jérôme Bastianelli, and she had only found one case of a homosexuality trial at that time. »
“Russian to the core”. Today, Tchaikovsky’s Wife ” will not be released in Russia, simply for this reason. The movie is not acceptable », said Kirill Serebrennikov. Indeed, a 2013 law that prohibits “ propaganda for non-traditional sex before minors » authorizes all forms of discrimination. So we promote the music of Tchaikovsky – who said to himself ” Russian to the core – all over the world…while hoping to hide the obvious. The Mariinsky Theater lives from its Nutcracker and others Swan Lake, which he exported on major international tours until the invasion of Ukraine put an end to invitations. ” It’s unbelievably hypocriticalunderlines Serebrennikov. What would be so catastrophic in recognizing that Tchaikovsky was homosexual? »
” I hope that people who see the film will question their own lives and what is happening around them.launches the director. Not only with regard to homosexuality but also in relation to women. Because with this vibrant portrait of a desperate lover mistreated by everyone, including the object of his blind passion, Kirill Serebrennikov has given a name to “Tchaikovsky’s wife”. ” Antonina didn’t want to be just a speck of dust on the genius’s shoe », he sighs. Here she is finally dressed in the finery of a heroine.
Serebrennikov at work
When Leto (2018) and Petrov Fever (2021) had competed in Cannes, Kirill Serebrennikov was blocked in Russia by a case of embezzlement of public funds mounted for political reasons and which earned him house arrest, a three-year suspended prison sentence and a ban on leaving the territory (Photo : his appearance in court, in Moscow, on April 18, 2018). Since the end of March, the director, finally free to move, has been living in Berlin. At the beginning of July, he will sign the opening show of the Festival d’Avignon (according to the short story by Chekhov The Black Monk) with, among other actors, his Tchaikovsky, Odin Lund Biron. Then it will turn in the fall Limonov, based on the book by Emmanuel Carrère, with English actor Ben Whishaw in the title role§ F.C.
sp (x2) – EVGENY BIYATOV/Sputnik via AFP – akg-images
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Cannes Film Festival – Tchaikovsky seen by his wife
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