Varicella is a tender snapshot of two young sisters training to be solo ballerinas at Russia’s most prestigious ballet school. The central tension of the film is whether Nastya (12) and Polina (7) will graduate to the following year, but the heart of the film is the touching relationship between them. Although made for children, the simplicity of this beautiful short film is equally as mesmerising for adults.
In the opening sequence the girls are dancing freely in a cramped living room; the audience immediately feel their close bond and their different personalities. Nastya is serious, delicately-featured and highly strung. Polina is expressive, round-faced and gazes with admiration at her older sister. The rest of the film takes place in the Academy; shot in a delicate white light it has an air of innocence, while the limited number of shots adds to the film’s simplicity. But there is an undertone of struggle – backlit against the window of the practice room, a striking wide-shot reveals how these impossibly lean, prepubescent figures are pushed and pulled by the ballet teacher to achieve perfection.
Director Victor Kossakosky explains: “I wanted to film beauty in its deepest sense, and share this with children. Nastya and Polina are the best examples of this that I have found in years.” Their relationship is beautifully captured in the smallest of gestures and in the girls’ intimate conversations, from which even adults might learn a thing or two:
Polina: “Why do you dance?”
Nastya: “To be happy.”
Varicella moves as gracefully as the ballet dancers it follows in revealing the beautiful and powerful relationship between the sisters as they struggle to achieve their dreams of being prima ballerinas.
DIRECTOR: Victor Kossakovsky
SYNOPSIS: Two sisters train to be solo ballerinas at Russia’s most prestigious ballet school.