Doch Rybaka [Tzarevna Scaling] (2020)

Doch Rybaka [literally: Fisherman’s Daughter]
Director: Uldus Bakhtiozina
Writer: Uldus Bakhtiozina
Cast: Alina Korol, Viktoria Assovskaya, Valentina Yasen, Aleksandra Kysotskaya, Albina Berens, Serafima Solovyova, Xenia Popova-Pendereckaya, Uldus Bakhtiozina, Adelia Severinova, Mária Pavlová
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2021
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Plot:
Polina’s (Alina Korol) life is far from fancy. She lives in a tiny apartment and works as a fishmonger in a small truck. One day, a strange woman comes to her truck to buy fish heads for her cats. She gives Polina a special tea that is supposed to make her dreams come true. Poline gives it a try and ends up in a strange, but rigorous testing program to see if she is a princess, a tsar’s daughter.

I adored Tzarevna Scaling. If there is one thing I didn’t like it’s that it’s only 70 minutes long – I really wanted to spend more time in this world. It’s a visually stunning take on fairy tales that will stay with me for a long time.

The film poster showing two women wearing elaborate swan hats sitting at a table next to a swimming pool where they armwrestle.

Tzarevna Scaling riffs off various fairy tales and fairy tale tropes, but takes it in a completely different direction, one that feels fresh and very modern, and yet still true to the traditional fairy tale spirit. Without knowing anything about Bakhtiozina before watching the film, I could tell that she has great love for and knowledge of fairy tales. It shows in every second of the film. At the same time, she is not content with just taking the stories without blowing the dust off of them a little.

This mix of modern and well-established is echoed in the set and costume design, and dammit, both of those are absolutely glorious. The visual language of the film reminded me of Tarsem Singh movies in the absolute best way: inventive, evocative and stylish.

Three women in fancy headdresses and ballgowns sitting at a table looking very bored.

The film also has a very nice sense of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously – which is always a good thing. And then, as if the film had made a survey of what I, personally, love, there are also dance scenes in it, with awesome music. I wouldn’t have minded more of those scenes.

In fact, I wouldn’t have minded just more of the film that instantly became a festival favorite for me. Actually, more than that: an instant overall favorite.

Polina (Alina Korol) standing in an icy landscape wearing a fancy headdress.

Summarizing: absolutely wonderful.

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