A Tale of a Tail
Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova) is a middle-aged zoo worker who still lives with her mother in a small coastal town. She is a rut and it seems that life has no surprises for her until one day – she grows a tail and turns her life around. This is the premise of “Zoology”, a rare film that operates well on different levels. The film has a kind of quiet confidence that is frequently missed. Natasha somehow grows a tail, whilst also being tender coming of age story and if you know anything about post-communist Russia, you will see the allegory here with a great upheaval that gives new leases on life to a generation that has been repressed. But you do not have to know that to enjoy this film.
Natasha is an office assistant who orders food supplies for a zoo. The rest of her life seems to be hiding that she smokes from her mother. Her colleagues at work talk behind her back, tease her, and generally act as if she has no place their mundane lives.
As her tail continues to grow, she seeks out medical help, but her strange tail is no great surprise to the doctors she sees she sees and they simply send her through charades of getting successive and clearer X-rays. When the kindly specialist Peter (Dmitri Groshev) allows her an after hours appointment, she buys him a gift of wine, and a sweet romance almost like a teenage date follows. They share their first drink together, as well as a kiss, a dance and a few intimate secrets about the zoo at night, and Peter’s favorite spot for washbasin sledding. It’s strange to watch these adults act like teenagers, but as Natasha changes her image to one that is less dowdy, director Ivan I. Tverdovsky frames her in ways that make her look small and unassuming and she begins to transform into an adolescent.
Of course, the story has a dark side and we see this when stories about a shapeshifting devil that appears as a woman with a tail begins to circulate. and an unfortunate incident rocks Natasha’s confidence. Of course we want to know what all of this means and wonder if this is simply the study of the chemistry between a middle-aged woman and a tail., Tverdovsky doesn’t explain where his heroine’s sudden growth comes from or why she uses it as an impetus to finally strive to lead the life she deserves. Perhaps this is just a movie about how social misfits need to embrace their uniqueness and strive to find their sense of belonging.
The tail gets the neighborhood gossip mongers on high alert, including Natasha’s mother. Natasha’s meetings with Peter (Dmitri Groshev) bring an unexpected romance and Natasha loves it. Soon, however, she wonders why Peter is actually attracted to her. She longs for a sense of normalcy, even though it might mean retreating into the unremarkable person she once was.
As it turns out for Natasha, her tail is the best thing that has ever happened to her. Peter is attracted to her mutation, which is evident from the beginning of their more intimate correspondences. Her reaction to his fervor during a sexual interaction shows that she obviously loves his attention and affection but is alarmed at his infatuation with her tail which is the reason they know each other and the only thing saving her from returning to her previous boring life.
What Natasha feels is certainly not far from what many in the LGBT community feel. They are often singled out for their differences but this is nothing like suddenly growing a tail.
The film has a mise-en-scene of misery and without color. In glum circumstances, who can Natasha turn to when she grows a tail? She has to step out of herself. She is on her own and she decides to embrace her uniqueness. When she does, she becomes a moving and sexy celebration of the outsider. Natasha gets herself a makeover, has an affair with a young doctor, and, in relation to her peers, she becomes something more than what passes for human in this small-minded society. Even the horrified screams that come from fellow dancers when Natasha’s tail accidentally slips from her skirt at the disco gives her extra energy.
“Zoology” suggests the unwanted, uncontrollable permutations of our physicality will eventually endure when time catches up with us. However, because of Natasha’s resolve, her mutation becomes something empowering and even inspirational. Beneath her transformation Natasha is, just like all of us, all too human.
Special Features include:
– High Definition 1080p Presentation
– Optional English Subtitles
– 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound
and yet more to be announced soon.
For the first pressing only there is an illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Michael Brooke.