"My Love": Animation Urges into Psychology By Nadezhda Marinchevska

in 49th Leipzig International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Nadezhda Marinchevska

It took more than five years for the Russian animator Alexander Petrov to make his new film after winning the Oscar with The Old Man and the Sea (2000). My Love (Moya Lyubov) goes back to the tradition of psychological Russian literature after his Cow (Korova) by Andrei Platonov and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (Son Smeshnogo Cheloveka) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This time the director uses a short story by Ivan Shmelev. The story about the first love of the sixteen-year-old boy Anton is brilliantly painted on glass. He is torn apart by his feelings for a pure and gentle girl and a femme fatale. Anton is not sure which one is the right one and his faltering steps mix up with the romantic craving for purity and heroism. Alexander Petrov shows in animated images even the slightest nuances of the adolescent’s emotional life. This subtle tracing of inner-world movements is extremely difficult to achieve in animation. Petrov’s characters breathe, they fall in love, and they have their doubts and sorrows in a way as if they were real persons. The artist draws his figures in a three-dimensional perspective so that the spectator could step into the shoes of the character and see life through his eyes. Petrov’s ability to explore the mystic sides of the human being’s inner life has become his trademark. On the whole, animation rarely is able to depict tangible emotions and turn to signs and symbols which only make suggestions to our imagination. This peculiarity is understandable as animation normally shows drawn images or puppets and not actors’ faces. Alexander Petrov manages to paint real-life emotion on the screen in his very unique contribution.

The story goes through various relationships. Anton dreams of his beloved ones, argues with his cynic friend or witnesses unfaithfulness and murder in his neighborhood. The boy’s own aristocratic family is another source of tension because of class bias — Pasha, one of the Anton’s beloved girls, is just a maid in their home. Serafima, the other woman who fires his imagination, has a bad reputation but the young protagonist is happily unaware of it. Every time Anton touches or stares at one of the girls he sees himself in a mythological plot of rescuing her or dives deep in the imaginary sea of emotions. After a series of shy looks, presented snowdrops, secret letters or feverish kisses through the fence the story comes to an unfortunate end. Anton suddenly experiences a mental breakdown when he is disappointed by Serafima’s devilish nature. Then Pasha becomes a nun in a monastery to pray for his recovery. At the very end, the young boy wakes up a man who has lost his first love. He has gone through a lot of emotions such as sorrow, jealousy and all the ups and downs of love. Alexander Petrov’s poetic handling of the film suppresses and transforms the Shmelev’s 19th century sentimentality.

My Love is a passionate and psychological film beautifully painted on glass. It delicately moves between reality, introspection and dreams without destroying the truthfulness of the story. Alexander Petrov’s painting is derived from the impressionist styles and their bright colors interspersed here and there with dramatic red and black tones pouring out of the boy’s nightmares. The talented animation gives new life to the countless tiny brush strokes which are in a state of permanent movement. Actually, Petrov makes his oil paintings with fingers on multiple glass planes. The world in the film is moving and dancing in a never-ending play of shadows and colors matching the unstable emotions of the young boy. The continuous blurs and sharps of the image are part of the poetic language of the film. This is a work of contrasts where the sunshine plays its own role over the characters’ faces. The fluid changes of the image create a breathing world where harmony and drama blend in an organic way.

The animation of Alexander Petrov and his team is brilliant and contributes to the strong aesthetical impact of the film. My Love is a film about real-life emotions poetically seen and embodied in exquisite impressionist painting.