Karlovy Vary Q&A: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy, 'Zoology'

By Rosser, Michael | Screen International, July 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

Karlovy Vary Q&A: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy, 'Zoology'


Rosser, Michael, Screen International


The rising Russian director talks to Screen about his drama centred on a woman who grows a tail.

Ivan I. Tverdovskiy is back at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, two years after winning the East of West Award with teen drama Corrections Class.

Zoology marks the second feature from the 27-year-old Russian filmmaker and shifts focus to the older generation, following a middle-aged woman (Natalya Pavlenkova) who is stuck in a rut until she grows a tail and turns her life around.

Tverdovskiy spoke to Screen about the film, which debuted at Kinotavr Sochi Open Russian Film Festival last month and received its international premiere in competition at KVIFF on Sunday (July 3).

The Russia-France-Germany co-production is made by New People Film Company in co-production with Arizona Productions and MovieBrats Pictures. New Europe Film Sales handles world sales.

Screen: In Corrections Class you focussed on teenagers. For your second feature, you focus on mature people. Why this shift?

Ivan I. Tverdovskiy: I don't think of my characters in Zoology as older characters because their psychology is really childish. They behave as teenagers. In this sense, their bodies are only a costume. Natasha still lives with her mother at the age when we meet her. The mother escorted her to kindergarten, school and sends her to work in the same manner so nothing has changed for her.

Your characters are outsiders. Why focus on them?

We live in quite complex times. About five years ago in Russia, when you bought a t-shirt with Ninja Turtles on, it was cool. But times have changed and it's better to wear a black or grey t-shirt so that you don't stand out. That's how it feels in Russia. I feel even people on the street interact in a different manner to five years ago. There's a feeling of an inner unification of people. I feel that's fake and something going back to Soviet times and I wanted to rebel against that. I've never lived in the Soviet Union myself but what I see today reminds me of stories from my parents. It's quite sad.

So when I tell the story of a person who grows a tail, I want to tell the story of an individual human being rather than a mass of people. So she's not really an outsider but she is an individual.

This story is a fable so I did not want to focus on a group of people fighting a regime but wanted to tell a more mythological story.

What is the message of Zoology?

It can be formulated in a simple way: you have to be yourself. The story behind it is that modern society is against people expressing their feelings. Once they stop being silent, grow a tail and express their feelings, society reacts in a cruel manner and orders people to shut up and not express anything. So the message is that you should be individual and express your feelings.

The term Zoology refers to people who are not distinguishable from animals. On the contrary. They are very similar to animals and behave in an animal manner, who don't try to express their feelings, overcome themselves or grow a tail. …

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