— by Jeff Schultz
[Special dispatch from the 27th annual Tromsø International Film Festival]
> This documentary follows the journey, both geographical and psychological, of a Norwegian actress, Gøril Mauseth, who is cast as the lead in a Russian stage production of ANNA KARENINA to be produced in Vladivostok. Just one problem: she doesn’t speak Russian. The film follows Mauseth as she travels by train with her little boy across the Motherland, immersing herself in Tolstoyan locales while struggling to learn the language. Once rehearsals begin, the daunting task of getting the lines right at the same time as properly interpreting Anna’s complex, tortured character becomes overwhelming.
> Too overwhelming, in fact, as the disappointing denouement reveals. The outcome is not what Mauseth had hoped to accomplish, but we are meant to see it as a triumph because by coming to understand (and to “use”) Anna’s tragic fate, she comes to terms with her own, suppressed childhood trauma, which almost, ahem, derailed her life at the age of 15. (Apparently, unhappy actresses, like unhappy families, are unhappy in their own way.)
> The novel, of course, involves Anna’s choice between the child she loves and the lover she is mad for — leading to rather strained comparisons between the boy in the novel, Seryozha, and Mauseth’s son, Baltazar. For me, the movie was more a portrait of actressy self-involvement than a melding of characters. But the Russian vistas are magnificent.