Review: Christine – Cineuropa
– Serbian director Nikola Spasic makes a gripping documentary-fiction hybrid portrait of a transgender woman in Serbia
Kristina Milosavljevic in Christina
A woman lies on a rug in a living room, a piece of cloth covering her eyes. Out of frame, a female voice gently guides her deeper and deeper into a waking dream. At the end of this journey, the reclining woman finally describes, with a touch of disappointment in her voice, that lowering her eyes, she sees a pair of male feet.
serbian director Nikola Spasic and director of photography Igor Lazic (no relation!) shoots this sequence in such a discreet way, with such warm and beautiful images, that we may not immediately feel the urge to interpret or draw conclusions. Only later is it clarified that Kristina sometimes sees herself as a man during regression therapy sessions because she is a transgender woman.
Spasic, Lazic and screenwriter Milanka Gvoic maintain that absorbing, instantaneous aesthetic throughout Christina [+see also:
film profile]a cinematic portrayal of Kristina Milosavljevic, which won two prizes at the FIDMarseille and played at the Seville Festival, where it has just received the Prize for Best Direction in a First or Second Feature Even if it offers interviews of her speaking to the filmmaker behind the camera, the never falls into the kind of voyeuristic objectification so common in documentaries or documentary-fiction hybrids like this film. Objectification isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s refreshing to see a film that is more concerned with the everyday life and thoughts of its subject as she herself experiences them, than as an outsider could perceive them.
This sense of perspective is largely achieved through the film’s pleasingly leisurely pace, with each shot lingering just long enough to immerse the viewer in it, take them away from the initial surprise of a new image, and create an absorbing atmosphere. At just 90 minutes, however, and unlike most arthouse cinemas, the film avoids lingering just for fun, and packs a lot into its short runtime.
This richness, as well as the feeling of introspection that permeates the film, also goes to Kristina herself. The images of her stately and expensive home, along with her impeccable sense of style, flawless makeup, and generally charming disposition, immediately make her come across as a very confident person. This impression is confirmed during a first sequence which shows her on her terrace, first taking a call from an old woman whose furniture she thinks could complement her carefully decorated house, then another call from another telephone. , of a customer about to pass. She changes into a sexy nightgown and waits for him in the living room, but the revelation that she’s a sex worker barely feels like a revelation. It’s just another fact of his well-organized life.
Kristina, however, is also a very thoughtful person and the film is, in fact, a slow-burning drama, built almost imperceptibly out of Kristina’s encounters with a man she keeps bumping into. Kristina has friends, but a stranger is kind to her, a man; in her on-camera confessions (later playfully integrated into a more obviously fictional sequence showing Kristina talking to her friends), she speaks anxiously about him and worries about what he knows about her. As Kristina goes through her days, this stranger appears again and again, until a beautiful scene where the two finally spend some real time together. Sitting on a pew, they speak candidly but respectfully about themselves and each other, and it turns out that he works in a church. Like the rest of the film, however, their conversation is not a game of oppositions and binaries; taking precedence over any principles or ideas they might have is their connection in the moment, their presence with each other. They discuss their relationship to religion not in absolute terms, but as a journey. He knows about Kristina’s work and the fact that she’s transgender, and when she asks him if someone “has been a man” would be a deciding factor for him, he simply says he doesn’t know, what he would have to see.
Christina was produced by Rezon. International sales are handled by Reason8.