The Spot [Точка]
Iurii Moroz, famous among Russian audiences for his TV series Kamenskaia, turned to the genre of melodrama in 2006, making a film about three prostitutes-limitchitsy who have come to Moscow from different provincial towns. The Spot is based on Grigorii Riazhskii’s novel of the same title, and lacks any narrative embellishment or romanticizing. The film is about the young women’s attempts to break with their pasts—which contained only violence, rape, poverty, and the loss of beloved men—by moving to the center of financial opportunities and promises of a better life.
The flashbacks into their past are organized in the form of three narrative fragments, three novellas with the young prostitute’s names as titles— “Moidodyrka,” “Anna”, and “Kira.” Each story represents the provinces as dull, unpleasant places. The gloomy provincial landscapes, with their factory chimneys, dirty streets, and old houses bring an atmosphere of lost opportunities, broken destinies, and unfulfilled dreams.
Moroz resorts to different techniques to make the events in his film seem more dramatic and more “real”: he shoots his film with a hand-held digital camera and tries to avoid artificial lightning; he chooses real places for his setting—the actual tochka where prostitutes congregate to pick up tricks, located five minutes from the police station at Petrovka, and the actual barracks at the railroad station, where the residents kindly agreed to give up their home for the period of shooting. Moroz also engages professional prostitutes in some of the crowd scenes and allows his characters to use harsh, foul language on-screen. The insertion of documentary shots, extreme closeups of the characters, and the camera’s vertigo movements involve the audience in the emotional and psychological drama of the three young women and bring melodramatic elements into the film.
Despite this, The Spot transgresses from the “traditional” understanding of melodrama, insofar it lacks any positive male character and there is no main love story between two protagonists. The only romantic relations between characters are represented in Zebra’s storyline. However, Moroz is not interested in this love tragedy, but rather focuses on the relations among the three prostitutes after they start working at the spot and on the similarities between their life stories. What makes Anna, Moidodyrka, and Zebra similar to each other, even though they are driven to the spot by different reasons, is their subjugated position in the power relations between men and women. Almost all males have only one function in Moroz’s film: they are consumers of female bodies and the owners of a sadistic and voyeuristic gaze. The film establishes the agency of the male protagonists in the very first scene, in which young women in bright, tasteless outfits pose in front of a graffiti wall as a part of their everyday work. In this scene, female bodies are objectified and become available for male violence and control. The tragedy of such a position is represented in the scene of Zebra’s involuntary experience as a prostitute. Moroz deliberately does not add any sound or music to the scene with the changing medium shots of numerous male clients on the train. The poster of a newly-wed couple—“With New Happiness!” on the wall—gives a false promise of a happy ending for male-female relations. Nevertheless, the scene ends with the loud grating sound of a moving train and Zebra desperately shaking her head as an act of refusal.
Music plays an important role in Moroz’s film. Garik Sukhachev’s song, together with the shots of a killed soldier from his music video, predicts Zebra’s boyfriend’s death. Essential for the melodramatic mode, the sober music written by Darin Sysoev follows the female protagonists through their life journeys. Anna and Moidodyrka accept the rules of a patriarchal system and become the owners of their own spot. The film ends with Diana Arbenina’s song “The Capital,” which follows Zebra as she is walks to the place where Anna and she became friends earlier in the film. When Zebra stops at the edge of the road above the highway, the camera slowly moves from a low angle shot to a high angle shot and focuses on the young woman’s body with the clear sky in the background. The film ends with a still of Zebra, with her hands up to the sky and with her back turned to the city. Similar to the last scene of Thelma and Louise, this very last shot of The Spot opens up opportunities for different interpretations of the film. It is up to the audience to interpret whether this is an act of freedom and escape from the patriarchal order or the loss of a female protagonist in the battle against social constraints.
1990 The Witch Cave