Review: 107 Mothers
by Marta Bałaga
- VENICE 2021: Peter Kerekes takes a look at mothers behind bars, crossing the boundary between reality and fiction so often that there is no boundary any more
We all know the feeling – there are no films about mothers, and then all of a sudden, two come along, on the same day, at Venice. Peter Kerekes’ Orizzonti proposal, 107 Mothers [+see also:
interview: Peter Kerekes
film profile], doesn’t possess the sheen of the Almodóvar opener Parallel Mothers [+see also:
film profile], obviously, although someone does paint the soles of her shoes red here to make them look more like those Louboutin heels. It’s still an engaging watch, however, despite – or because of – being set in one of Odessa’s correctional facilities for women.
Trying to make up its mind between documentary and fiction, ultimately embracing both (with the help of professional actress Maryna Klimova), it finds humour and tenderness in the worst possible situation – these ladies, usually convicted for murder, are here to stay for a while. In the meantime, however, they share stories, learn how to control their emotions better and how to put on a show for a judge, with only their fellow inmates knowing how they really feel about their victim’s untimely fate.
Sometimes, and Kerekes seems to be especially fascinated by this, they were even married to them, snapping one day and changing their destiny forever. Here’s the thing, though – the concept of the “crime of passion” and the whole trajectory from love to murder have been slowly deromanticised over the past few years, thankfully. Arguably, the gender switch makes it less jarring, which is probably not fair, but even this kind of exchange about the reasons for committing such a crime would sound completely different if the inmates and guards were male:
- “Why did you kill him?”
- “I understand.”
It sounds a bit funny, and terrifying of course, and it can be sometimes, with these prisoners generally telling it how it is. On most days, they stick to their routines. Sometimes, they give birth to babies, even though they can keep them for just three years before the orphanage or a family member comes knocking. Kerekes, but also some of his protagonists, seems to have very traditional views on what makes a woman’s life feel worthwhile. It’s motherhood and love, even when it’s gone terribly wrong, as a lonely woman is also one who seems to be pitied the most here, even though she actually works in the prison. Iryna (Iryna Kiryazeva) might not be behind bars or giving birth to a child she can’t really care for, but she is single, and that’s about it, even for her own nagging mother. In prison or outside in the wide world, some things just don’t change fast enough.
107 Mothers is a Slovak-Czech-Ukrainian co-production staged by Punkchart Films, Endorfilm, Radio and Television Slovakia, Peter Kerekes Film, Arthouse Traffic and Hypermarket Film. Its sales are overseen by Films Boutique.
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