Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari

21 September 2019

Run Time

106 mins
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It is against this background that Russian film-maker Aleksey Fedorchenko—a documenter of folk cultures across the country and region through acclaimed narrative and documentary films—decided to take on the culture of the Meadow Mari. Across twenty-three short chapters, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari presents a catalogue of Mari fairytales and folklore, depicting in painterly tableaux a culture driven by ritualistic appreciation for female beauty and feminine sexuality. Vibrant colours, breathtaking cinematography and a gentle sensibility strike a harmony between scenes variously tender and grotesque.

The chapters alternate between the everyday and the fantastical. In the first, we see a young woman praying to the Mother of Birth (depicted as a white fir tree) to take away her birthmarks, which she says makes her ugly. In others, we see grotesque creatures from the forest deep or women dancing nude, their bodies possessed by spirits. By the end of Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari we understand the film not as switching between the rote and the unusual, but the everyday and fantasy feeding into and off of each other, each necessary to depict this culture which is so alien from our own. — Herb Shellenberger

Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari

(Nebesnye zheny lugovykh mari)

The Meadow Mari are a Finno-Urgic ethnic group living on the left bank of the Volga River in central Russia, sometimes called ‘the last authentic pagans in Europe’. Across twenty-three short chapters, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari presents a catalogue of Mari fairytales and folklore, depicting in painterly tableaux a culture driven by ritualistic appreciation for female beauty and feminine sexuality. Vibrant colours, breathtaking cinematography and a gentle sensibility strike a harmony between scenes variously tender and grotesque.

Production Year

2012

Director

Country

Dialogue Languages

Mari Russian

Subtitle Language

English

Primary Contact

Evgeniya Chulkova

Distributor

Evgeniya Chulkova