Review: Valeria Is Getting Married
- Set over the course of one day, Michal Vinik’s engrossing chamber piece zooms in on the social hypocrisy and power struggles of an arranged marriage
A young Ukrainian woman, Valeria (Dasha Tvoronovich), seems to be experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety. She arrives in Tel Aviv to meet her future husband, Eytan (Avraham Shalom Levi), whom she has met on Skype only three times and whom she will wed as part of an arranged marriage. There, she reunites with her sister Christina (Lena Fraifeld), who has already been living in Israel for quite some time and who met her husband Michael (Yaakov Zada-Daniel) through a similar arrangement.
This is the engaging premise of Michal Vinik’s drama Valeria Is Getting Married, screened in the Panorama strand of the Vilnius International Film Festival after being world-premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year.
The movie can be defined as an exquisite chamber play, as it takes place over the course of one day and is set almost exclusively in one location (within the walls of Christina’s house). It also boasts a rather traditional, three-act structure, where the three main characters deal with crystal-clear conflicts. But this is not to say that Vinik’s film is banal or a déjà vu-like viewing experience. On the contrary, what makes it fairly unique and absorbing are the unusual setting and theme, revolving around the arranged marriages between people from these two cultures, and the fact that all three leads try to achieve their own personal gains through wrongful deeds, acting selfishly and harming – to some extent – themselves and others.
For example, Christina does not wish to give up her wealthy lifestyle, but clearly struggles to tolerate Michael’s continuous niggling remarks and patronising attitude. On the other hand, Michael seems to be proud of having a wife whom he can control on every level and is keen to earn a considerable amount of money from Eytan to arrange his marriage with Valeria. But he also senses that “finalising” their union may be harder than expected and fears that Valeria is a loose cannon.
Through several, apparently insignificant, plot details, we sense how the couple’s relationship has for a long time – or, most likely, since day one – been heavily influenced by Michael’s grip. In one of the first few scenes, for example, Michael finds Christina’s soup bland and not as tasty as his mother usually makes it. After a while, we come to realise that there was probably nothing wrong with her dish after all, as Christina claims to have followed her mother-in-law’s recipe meticulously.
By always demanding more of her and belittling her, Michael manages to put a great deal of pressure on his wife, keeping her under control and stifling any possible desire for independence. Thus, Valeria Is Getting Married gradually develops into a sort of cat-and-mouse psychodrama, where no one seems willing to come to terms with their true self and no one understands how to achieve freedom or any form of accomplishment. And the characters’ varying degrees of visible desperation and egotism play a huge role in exacerbating things.
The fast-paced, 76-minute narrative is enriched by the well-balanced presence of Daphna Keenan’s score, dominated by violins, and incorporating more melancholic and pounding themes as the tension rises.
Valeria Is Getting Married is a co-production by Ukraine’s ForeFilms and Israel’s Lama Films. German outfit m-appeal is selling it internationally.
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