Best of British cinema

Best of British cinema

The New British Film Festival showcases the latest quirky offerings from the U.K.’s film industry.

Published: November 23, 2011 (Issue # 1684)


Tanya Wexler’s ‘Hysteria,’ set in the Victorian era, tells the story of the invention of the vibrator.

British cinema has always stood out in world cinematography for its way of depicting the problems of an entire generation — and sometimes of all of mankind — through an individual story.

This is probably the main common characteristic of the films chosen for screening at the New British Film Festival that kicks off in the city Wednesday, as the majority of the stories to be screened go deep into history to show the reality of modern society.

The festival aims to show the latest achievements of British cinema in all its facets. Despite the fact that the festival program in St. Petersburg is a shortened version of that shown earlier this month in Moscow, the diversity of the themes touched by British directors has not suffered.

Opening with the drama “Perfect Sense” starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green, the festival continues with the family drama “Archipelago,” the teenage drama “Neds,” the nonfiction film “The Bengali Detective,” and comedy drama based on real events “Made in Dagenham,” before winding up with the comedy “Hysteria” about the Victorian origins of the vibrator.

“The festival is basically a showcase of contemporary British cinema, and this concept requires us to show various genres,” said Alexei Laifurov, a representative of CoolConnections, one of the festival’s organizers.


A still from ‘Made in Dagenham,’ based on the true story of female plant workers’ struggle for equal rights.

The festival’s opening movie “Perfect Sense” is the latest offering from the critically acclaimed director David Mackenzie, who has previously been awarded several prizes by the British Film and Television Academy and Berlin Film Festival. “Perfect Sense” also won an award at the Edinburg International Film Festival. The film tells the love story of two very different people at a time when love threatens to disappear completely across the world due to an unknown virus. While Mackenzie has chosen a severe metaphor for the derogatory attitude of people to their feelings — an attitude that in the film leads to a worst-case scenario outcome — the director leaves a flash of hope that a magic solution can be found to preserve the feeling of love in people.

“Neds,” showing later in the week, is a film about a talented and intelligent teenager named John in 1970s Glasgow. John fails to realize his potential due to the circumstances of time and place and life itself. The film shows just how easily a spark of talent can be extinguished, and raises the problem of violence and unjustified aggression among young people — a problem that remains painfully relevant in both the U.K. and Russia — but stylistically, the film represents complete immersion into the unstable atmosphere of the 1970s.

Another film that takes the audience back in time is both amusing and yet a truthful, sombering story of women’s struggle for equal rights. The story takes place in 1968, less than half a century ago, when the idea of equal pay for women was not taken seriously, either by the government or by heads of enterprises, who were invariably men. But the female employees of the Ford factory in Dagenham thought differently, and decided to change history.

In some sense, a history-changing moment also forms the basis of another film represented at the festival, “Hysteria,” starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jonathan Pryce. Tanya Wexler, director of the film — which has caused a stir around the world — tells the story of the vibrator as a Victorian invention designed to cure female hysteria. While the intimate subject matter of the film has left a lot of people shocked, Wexler herself once said that she had to make this film, even if it was to be her last film ever.

The New British Film Festival runs from Nov. 23 to 27 at the Formula movie theater in Galeria shopping mall, 30A Ligovsky Prospekt. For a full schedule, visit

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