The turbulent marriage between Russia’s most famous composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Odin Lund Biron), and his wife, Antonina Miliukova (Alyona Mikhailova), is the focus of Kirill Serebrennikov’s historical film Tchaikovsky’s Wife (Zhena chaikovskogo) as told from Antonina’s perspective. Unable to cope with Tchaikovsky’s antipathy, Antonina slowly begins to lose her mind.

The performance that Mikhailova delivers in her portrayal of Antonina’s descent into madness is masterful. Despite the innocent smile she plasters on her face, you see through her relentless pursuit of Pyotr that just underneath the surface of her timid demeanor lies this obstinacy to get what she wants regardless of the cost to herself or others. This especially makes itself apparent in her refusal to accept that her marriage is unraveling.

A great recurring motif is the flies, which perfectly sums up the way Antonina is seen by others as a perpetual annoyance in their lives. At one point, a fly lands right in the middle of Pyotr’s face, interrupting the moment when she’s pleading for his hand in marriage. No matter how many times people attempt to swat the flies away, they’re always present and buzzing in their ears. 

The slow-burn of this film is an aspect that adds tension but was overdone to the point of hindering the story instead. It allows us to witness Mikhailova’s phenomenal transformation, but the tension that’s been created unfortunately lets up too many times due to the excessive length. There are multiple stretches where it’s difficult to remain engrossed and this is only worsened by the repetitiveness of certain scenes.

Although the prolonged runtime that doesn’t quite justify itself, Tchaikovsky’s Wife features some great moments with gorgeous cinematography and a truly unforgettable performance by Mikhailova that still makes this a standout film at Cannes this year.



CAST: Alyona Mikhailova, Odin Lund Biron, Miron Fedorov

DIRECTOR: Kirill Serebrennikov

WRITER: Kirill Serebrennikov

SYNOPSIS: The story of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the most famous Russian composer, and his wife Antonina Miliukova.