Caviar @Sydney Film Festival

Corruption, comedy, and caviar.

Nadja, a Russian living in Vienna, is a translator for boorish billionaire oligarch, Igor. When Igor impulsively resolves to build an ostentatious villa on the Danube Canal, he sets out to bribe local officials into redeveloping the area. Meanwhile Nadja, her girlfriend, and her hipster nanny plot to dob them in and steal the bribe money.

This is a very colourful film with some great cinematic choices when it comes to shots, and the overall production design really gives each character their own identity and makes each location pop. It’s chaotic and fast and its comical tone is set right from the opening scene. There is use of animations from artist Maria Otter, which draw influence from Monty Python and Glamour Punk, and keep this playfully mad energy going throughout the entire film.

The editing is done at an incredible pace and director Elena Tikhonova explained to me that this was very intentional. “I have 1893 cuts in my film. Normally for a film of 90mins it’s 900, so I have double,” she said. At times this can seem a bit jarring if you aren’t ready for it however. I would liken it to the thrill of getting onto one of those roller coasters that suddenly go backwards when you least expect it. It’s a very stylistic choice that ramps up the volume and makes for an agile piece of entertainment.

Elena, who also co-wrote the film, aims to challenge the conventions of the buddy-film genre by centring the story around three women. It feels like a good step, but I struggled to relate to any of them. I don’t know if that is because of a cultural disparity, but to me it felt as though the women were a little one dimensional. Yet even with their seemingly shallow motivations, there was an awareness of how they would be perceived by men and they were able to manipulate that throughout the story to come out on top. I struggled with this conflict internally the entire way through the film but despite it all I was laughing the whole way through.

The main point of this though is as Elena said to me, “It is very seldom that a woman, or three women, is in front.” Having these three characters be played by females is a big change for a genre that would normally cast men and its a great point for discussion at the very least, which I think is an overall positive.

This was Elena’s first foray into fiction filmmaking having come from the world of documentary previously. “With fiction you have every possibility. You make the storyboard, you make casting of protagonists, so you can really control everything.” she said, “well you cannot control everything, shit still happens in fiction.” The film took 32 days to shoot and went through 2 re-writes before finally being released and the finished product is a funny, colourful, fast paced, and truly entertaining romp through some politically charged issues that might just make you stop and think.

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