Mama | MamaDir: Yelena Renard, Nikolay Renard
“People eat their dinner, just eat their dinner, and all the time their happiness is being established or their lives are being broken up." Anton Chekhov Chekov’s line regarding drama seems particularly appropriate when applied to Nikolay and Yelena Renard’s MAMA. In one sequence the titular mother prepares a meal, as her obese 41-year-old son sits in the corner and watches her. Not one word is spoken between the two as she makes tea, boils eggs, feeds him and wipes spilled salt from his shirt. Despite that fact that ‘nothing happens’ in that 15 minute sequence, it is full of dramatic tension, intrigue and pathos. Through the subtle gestures and facial expressions on show, we construct for these mute characters a rich history that speaks of a complex past, an uncertain future and a relationship of both affection and loathing. This measured and minimalist way of dealing with our main protagonists is not restricted to just this sequence. Aside from one brief interlude the entire film is predicated upon long takes in which no dialogue is spoken. Relying on the audience to work out the narrative themselves, Mama is cinema in which the drama lies in the undramatic. But don’t expect the film to be any less moving or emotional due to its absence of dialogue. The lead performances are uniformly brilliant and will draw you into the lives of the characters without one word needed to be spoken whilst the direction for debut filmmakers Nikolay and Yelena Renard is strong and confident. It results in a film that is testament to the power of the moving image and the fact that drama can be found in the most unlikely of places. Laurence Boyce
Length: 1h 11'
Producer: Nikolay Renard, Yelena Renard
Script: Yelena Renard, Nikolay Renard
DoP: Samvel Gandzumian
Cast: Ludmila Alyohina, Sergey Nazarov
Awards and festivals: Rotterdam