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Film / The Asthenic Syndrome

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Not very cheerful

The Asthenic Syndrome is a 1989 Soviet film (made in the Russian language in Odessa, Ukrainian SSR) by Kira Muratova. It was shot after the Perestroika stepped in and the director was allowed to freely make her cinema once more as the previous ban had been lifted.

Its first part is dedicated to a woman who tries to cope with the loss of her husband. Its second part tells about a schoolteacher who suffers of the titular asthenic syndrome. Actually the first, shorter, part of the film is a movie demonstrated to the said schoolteacher. He sleeps in his seat after everyone quits the movie hall after the movie ends.

This is arguably a go-to movie when one thinks about Kira Muratova. Although both her much earlier Brief Encounters (1967) and much later The Tuner (2004) are also respected.



  • As Herself: Olga Antonovna who plays Natalya Ivanovna as well as herself as the actress who played in the film making up the first part of the whole movie.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Subverted as after the showing of an arthouse film, the lector who wants to discuss it with the audience lists Guerman, Sokurov and Muratova (the main directors of the Soviet arthouse scene) as auteurs who deserve more attention. Thus Muratova the director also exists in the universe of The Asthenic Syndrome. People who are annoyed by the film promptly leave the movie theater regardless.
  • Crapsack World: Life in the Soviet Ukraine during the Perestroika is very much this. Everything is decaying, most people feel less than adequate.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The first part of the film.
  • Downer Beginning: It starts with the funeral of the main character's husband. To put it midly, she does not take his death lightly.
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  • Epic Movie: By the standards of an arthouse film, clocking in at 2 hours 33 minutes.
  • Excessive Mourning: For Natalya Ivanovna, who is so aggrieved by the death of her husband that she attacks people around, both acquaintances and strangers.
  • False Rape Accusation: And how! Natalya Ivanovna stands at the tram stop with one man and no-one else. After some time she assaults him, he is first astonished then strikes back and hits her to the ground. Then she starts to shout that he tries to rape her. However several people suddenly arrive and say that they saw that she herself attacked him first. Then they all go away, including the man who was waiting for the tram with Natalya Ivanovna in the beginning.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first and second parts of the film are connected only because the first part is a film within a film watched by the character of the second part. It is not exactly halfway as the first part is much shorter.
  • Kick the Dog: The mood of the film is set when a group of gravediggers makes something that would now be condemned by the whole internet. They harass a cat and attach a tin to her tail. In the end, the cat dashes away and one of the men who tries to snatch her by the tail catches the tin instand and remains with the tin unfastened from the cat. That implies that the people are both cruel and maladroit.
  • Show Within a Show: The first film is actually shown in-universe of the film that follows.