Venice 12 – Competition
A man and a woman learn that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. This discovery drives the two casual acquaintances to do things they would never have dared before. Is it due to jealousy or a newfound passion? Will they choose forgiveness or revenge? Both are looking for something to build a new life upon, but all of their actions, their thoughts, are dominated by this infidelity, this betrayal with a logic all of its own.
A sexy modern film noir from the director of CRUSH (Venice 2009 Horizons), YURI’S DAY (Locarno 2008) and PLAYING THE VICTIM (Rome 2006 Grand Prix)
An impressive, arresting metaphysical noir… A tense, original study of marital infidelity, Betrayal (Izmena) represents a cinematic coming of age for Russian director Serebrennikov… features a standout performance by German actress Franziska Petri as a cheated and eventually cheating wife whose surface poise is riven by forces of passion she can barely control… Easily the director’s most saleable film to date, Betrayal is an arthouse number with genre genes that should see it notching up more than a few sales. Eminently cinematic, it should nevertheless work also on a smaller screen for patient, cine-literate audiences. Think Double Indemnity set in a cold northern dreamscape with only scraps of plot to keep us going… One of its most impressive aspects is the way it refreshes hackneyed film conventions… Some of Betrayal’s hold on its audience is down to the surprises the script keeps in store… there’s enough serious probing of the human condition here, and what it means to love another person, to keep the film on an even keel. Some more is down to Petri’s raw take as a woman so brittle we keep expecting her to shatter when touched (in one scene she almost does) – though Lilic’s turn as an ordinary guy whose certainties are toppled is important too: he’s the audience’s main reality touchstone in the film’s increasingly strange world… But much of the film’s authority also derives from the director, cinematographer and production designer’s impressive control of light, colour, frame and mood. In a pale world, strong colours become warning signs: her auburn hair, or a red scarf that acts a wordless conveyor of the information that a husband knows about his wife’s infidelity. Reflections too are important in evoking the film’s metaphysical (and at times even supernatural) subtext. And although most of the film is not set to music, two brief bursts of Rachmaninoff’s symphonic poem Isle of the Dead startle us with their intrusion, and serve to chart the distance between the film’s mysterious dance and the melodrama it might have been.
— Lee Marshall, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
Strong performances and stylish direction… Trump card in a technically accomplished affair is Franziska Petri's precisely modulated performance in the demanding central role, this striking German actress balancing ice and fire… the post-Soviet architectural backdrops are a constant source of atmosphere and even fascination, as captured by ace cinematographer Oleg Lukichev… the Hitchcockianly strawberry-blonde Petri and prominent Macedonian stage star Lilic doing their best to navigate the tortuous convolutions of their characters' emotional pathways from reserve towards all-consuming amour fou… Serebrennikov is best known for Hamlet update Playing the Victim, which took top honors at Rome's inagural film-festival back in 2006. His direction here is stately, sensitive and elegant, capable of virtuouso moments and eyecatching compositions, largely eschewing music apart from sparingly judicious use of Rachmaninov's boldly haunting Isle of the Dead…
— Neil Young, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Troubling, formally complex study of obsession… Anchored by incandescent perfs from German thesp Franziska Petri and Macedonian actor Dejan Lilic, both dubbed seamlessly into Russian, the film becomes more entrancing as it goes along… Like the complexly coiffed hairstyles Petri wears throughout (recalling Kim Novak's in "Vertigo"), the configurations keep shifting but everything is ultimately wound up with tight aesthetic bobby pins, not a hair out of place. A similar waste-nothing principle governs the performances, with the leads in particular underplaying with a subtlety that's on just the right side of enigmatic. Petri, not well known beyond Germany, is a particular revelation, mesmerizing throughout with her piercing feline eyes and brisk hauteur… Of the uniformly pro crew, ace Russian lenser Oleg Lukichev (who also shot "Yuri's Day" and Alexei German Jr.'s "Gaspastum" and "The Last Train") deserves particular praise for his nervy but still fluent handheld lensing in widescreen, making stylish use of lens flares and shallow focus. Not since "The Battleship Potemkin" has a Russian film rendered staircases quite so menacing.
— Leslie Felperin, VARIETY