Kira Muratova's film,
Brief Encounters, is structured as two interspliced narrative lines.
Together, they tell the story of how two women-the urban, city council
official Valentina and the rural cafe waitress Nadia-love the itinerant and
restless geologist Maksim, played by the chansonier cult figure Vladimir
Vysotsky, for many years an actor at Moscow's Taganka Theatre.
The lives of these two women intersect when Nadia comes to the city to find
Maksim, whose address she had been given on a slip of paper. There she
encounters Valentina, who assumes Nadia has come to be interviewed for a
housekeeper position and hires her immediately. The subtly comic pairing of
the two women and their unintentional love triangle with the missing man are
infused with a lyric sensitivity, as the film's episodic flashbacks narrate
each woman's emotional dependency on the absent Maksim.
Director Kira Muratova, who also plays the role of Valentina, the city
bureaucrat, provides a psychological depth and complex richness to her
character that contrasts starkly with the more traditional femininity of her
foil, played by actress Nina Ruslanova, for whom this was the first film
role. The relationship of the two female characters contrasts city and
country, as well as differing class expectations, and normative gender
The film's nontraditional structure, avoiding linear narration and a single,
unambiguous perspective, proved ideologically problematic upon its completion
in 1967. The film was shelved until 1987, when it was released during the
perestroika period, together with such delayed films as Aleksei German's
Trial By Road and Aleksandr Askol'dov's Commissar.
Muratova's work, from her early Brief Encounters to the more recent
Three Stories and Second-Class People, has challenged
viewer expectations that Russian culture, and cinema in particular, has an
ethical responsibility to present an unambiguous moral message. Unlike a
number of her prominent colleagues, notably Aleksandr Sokurov and Nikita
Mikhalkov, Muratova has resisted both spiritual and patriotic aspirations in
her work, opting instead for a dark and brutal humor that does not readily
lend itself to a redemptive reading. Although her work retains few traces of
the "provincial melodramas" from the earlier period to which Brief
Encounters belongs, she continues to prefer disrupting and disturbing
the genteel norms of her audiences, rather than satisfying their love of a
predictable, well-wrought story.
(b. 1934) graduated from the All-Union State Filmmaking Institute
(Sergei Gerasimov's workshop) in 1962. Despite a career repeatedly
stifled by censorship, Muratova has amassed a number of prestigious
awards. Long Farewells (made in 1971 and shelved until 1987)
received a FIPRESCI award at the Film Festival in Locarno. The
Aesthenic Syndrom (1991) which is considered Muratova's masterpiece,
received a Nika (Russian Film Academy) award and "The Silver Bear" Award
at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2000 Muratova was chosen
as the first recipient of the Andzei Wajda/Philip Morris Freedom Prize.