Of Freaks and Men (1998)

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Director: Aleksei Balabanov
Cast: Sergei Makovetskii, Dinara Drukarova, Lika Nevolina, Viktor Sukhorukov


In St Petersburg during the infant years of the cinematograph, an immigrant entrepreneur who specialises in spanking photographs featuring his nanny and cash-needy girls breaks into the new medium at the same time as he and his assistant infiltrate two bourgeois households by corrupting their servants.

The Review

A remarkable series of erotic tableaux interspersed with bits of Russian classical music and Buñuelian shootings. What it all means is a mystery, but it could simply be an illustration of the dictum 'plus ça change...', the new technology immediately being brought to the service of the most basic desires, or alternatively a synecdoche of bourgeois depravity in the years leading up to the revolution. The too easy manipulation of the bourgeois women into stripping and posing for the camera, or even a specially invited audience, has something of the wish fulfilment of erotica itself, as indeed does the impunity of the various murders and the disappearance of the bodies. At the same time the use of siamese twins and a blind woman for purposes of titillation carries as much pathos as it does cruelty.