Medea | Zeldovich

In ancient Greek mythology, Medea embodies the insane side of love, at least insofar as she is ready to kill for her love, only to suffer a betrayal and venture into a cruel revenge. Alexander Zeldovich’s Medea follows the same path of cruelty, in a crescendo of irrationality, which is but the result of the radicalisation of rational cynicism. The omnipresent Tinatin Dalakishvili – model and actress from Georgia – spends almost all of her time in calculating the do ut des balance of interests, according to a “justice of love” that she has herself established as absolute principle in defiance of any reciprocity. In Medea, love is not a theme but a mere presupposition, and the story is rather focused on the ruthless consequences of the absolutisation of love, an increasingly implausible love, which is finally reduced to an unintelligible tantrum. To my eyes, Medea was quickly not credible anymore, neither in a naturalist nor mythological standpoint , and I perceived her as merely a vehicle by which to depict a society of blind selfishness – a moralist thread by Zeldovich?

However, the Russian director has certainly taken much pleasure in making of her Medea a champion in destroying any kind of value - be it familiar, religious, or aesthetical and even sexual – in the sacred name of love (of course) and in virtue of her alleged clairvoyance. This could have been a nice Nietzschean move, if only a proper deconstruction of values would have left room for some kind of nihilist sublimation, but Medea is not a super-woman (Übermensch) in this film. Rather she is a miserable figure of self-inflicted sorrow that capriciously destroys instead of deconstructing. Is this tragic or just sad?

What remains is Alexander Ilkhovskiy’s superb cinematography at the service of a bunch of Russian oligarchs touring between Russia and Israel in a world of ostentatious luxury. The potentially critical elements in this picture of human degradation are definitely too subdued, and one should ask oneself rather whether, in the end, Zeldovich’s film is actually celebrating the oligarchs themselves in making them worth of embodying some noble mythological stuff. In this case, would Medea be an underhand form of propaganda for authoritarian governments in search of cultural legitimation? In any way, when the Russian Medea goes satisfying her sexual needs with a deranged Israeli soldier in the tent of Palestinian Bedouins, I have the impression that the border line of “artistic” political incorrectness is definitely crossed. The motive of the destruction of values so becomes an occasion for conveying vulgarity and offense. Do we really need this bombastic pamphlet about abjection, this dubious apology of disdain?



Medea | Film | Alexander Zeldovich | RUS 2021 | 139’ | Locarno Film Festival 2021

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First published: August 31, 2021