Expanding on the humanity of his earlier Luna Park (1992), Russian writer-director Pavel Lungin’s Svadba (in the U.S., The Wedding) is warm, messy, overflowing, joyously accessible. Revolving around a wedding celebration in a beleaguered mining town between the time of perestroika and the Soviet Union’s collapse, Svadba is humane, hectic and hilarious.
The bride is Tania, who has returned to her hometown after a five years’ absence, during which time she was “kept” by Borodin, a (married) mobster who helped her to become a top model—a lucrative outcome Borodin’s boss doesn’t want to end. Borodin has thus followed Tania home, to beg her to return to him.
The groom is Mishka, who has always loved Tania. He and his fellow miners hadn’t been paid for seven months; but now things are looking up. Mishka’s poor family, with the help of the community, has pooled their resources for the wedding celebration. It is an attempt at reviving the town’s spirit. But things go awry, in part because of Borodin’s ominous presence, but even more so because of the local police chief, who sees Mishka’s imprisonment as his ticket for a transfer to Moscow. Mishka is accused of mugging Tania’s bewigged aunt—a crime that we know he did not commit. The chief, however, has extorted a signed confession out of the boy, allowing him on its basis to return to his own wedding party. The real culprit is determined to keep innocent Mishka from having his life destroyed, but the chief is equally determined in the opposite direction even after the aunt has withdrawn her complaint. This is the attitude confronting the corrupt chief: “Times have changed. We’re free now. Where’s the arrest warrant?”
The perpetual jitters of handheld camera seem misapplied; otherwise, a tremendous film.
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