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ZURICH 2019

Alina Rudnitskaya • Director of School of Seduction

“This story is about me”

by 

- Cineuropa talked to Alina Rudnitskaya, the director of School of Seduction, about what it means to be a woman in Putin’s Russia – or maybe all over the world

Alina Rudnitskaya  • Director of School of Seduction

Recently shown in the International Documentary Film Competition at the Zurich Film Festival, Alina Rudnitskaya’s unnerving School of Seduction [+see also:
interview: Alina Rudnitskaya
film profile
]
follows in the high-heeled, fishnet-legged footsteps of her short Bitch Academy. It shows three different women learning how to wrap men around their fingers at a rather unusual workshop.

Cineuropa: How did you find out about this “school”? And are there more places like it in Russia?
Alina Rudnitskaya:
I started this project ten years ago – I wanted to make a film about women. It was a time when everybody was trying to learn how to be a “bitch”: this successful, powerful female. That’s how I came across a place called the Bitch Academy. I started to go there and talk to the teachers, and in 2007, I made a short film about it. It was successful at film festivals, and everywhere, people would ask me about these women: “How is their life right now?” I suggested that maybe we should continue. We agreed that if something important were to happen in their lives, they would call me.

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You also decided to make it political by including quotes by President Putin, who apparently likes to talk about women as well, shaping the way many people think about gender roles.
I ended up finishing the film in Denmark, and people struggled to understand the context of this story. “Why do they go to these classes? Why do they behave like this?” They didn’t understand the reason, and the reason is that Russia is still a patriarchal country where men come first. To be successful, for a woman, means having a rich husband. It’s really important. Your status depends on the status of your husband. My idea was that Putin would represent this view. We started to look for anything he might have said about women, and yes, we found out that he talks about them a lot [laughs]. We were really surprised! His approach is very traditional, like all of his ideas, I think.

You chose very different women, but you also show their partners. Considering some of the tricky emotional situations they are in, didn’t they have a problem with it?
Maybe they trusted me? One of the characters told me about her problems with her mother, and that she fell in love with a married man. I asked: “Can we show this?” I really don’t know what she told him and why he agreed to do it. Maybe at that time, he had already made his decision. We made a real connection with all of these women, and I think of them as friends. The fact that they are all so different was very interesting to me.

When it comes to the actual classes, what did you find most disturbing? I was shocked that they would walk around in their underwear, exposed to the stare of their male “teacher”.
It was surprising to me, too. When I first started, it was the time when Russia was starting to change as well. Suddenly, all of these Soviet stereotypes and behaviour were a thing of the past. It was the beginning of capitalism, and the women felt lost. They were stuck in bad marriages or wanted to achieve new goals. This man is a professional psychologist. He used to work for a 911 hotline and said that it’s mostly women who call, asking for help. They trusted him, and that’s why they did all of these things. They might have been thinking: “A man will tell me how I should look, what I should do. A man knows best!” It may sound strange, but when a woman is alone, she doesn’t believe she is sexy – she wants to learn how to be a woman and how to manipulate men into doing what she wants.

You followed them for many years, with their lives changing so much over time, but you don’t seem to be overly optimistic.
I think that if you want to change your life, it’s good if you are doing something about it. And the way I see it, it’s not a story about this school – it’s about a woman’s position in society. These women depend on men like infantile children, or are taught to believe that they do. But then you have a family, and you still don’t feel fully realised. One of the characters is happy to become a mother, but then, she is stuck in the kitchen all day. She feels lonely, you know? I tried to show this in my film.

If I can ask, did you ever struggle with these kinds of worries yourself?
Yes, I can say that this story is about me. These three women, they are me. I gave birth relatively late in life, but I tried to figure out how to be happy in Russia, which way is the best way to achieve that. Because once you have a child, you lose your job, and when you have a job, you don’t have time for your child or to take care of the house. And men don’t really respect that. Maybe it will be different for the younger generation, but that’s how it was for us.

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