If you’re going to grow a tail, you may as well work in a zoo. At least you’re not going to get laughed at by a lemur; hyenas may typecast themselves and have a chortle, obviously. Cackling wolf-wannabes notwithstanding, it seems the safest possible environment for such an extreme body-modification and such is the case with Zoology, an enchanting modern fairy tale from Russian writer-director, Ivan I. Tverdovskiy.
With a cast of grotesques straight out of Grimm or even the whackier outposts of Shakespeare, it exists in its own self-contained universe. You just need to go with the flow. Why wouldn’t you grow a tail? Once you accept that, it becomes a perfectly-formed little piece of magic. Magic with a luminous performance at the heart from Natalya Pavlenkova as the funkily morphing Natasha.
Zoology is, in many ways, the perfect festival film. A real curio with neither rhyme nor reason for its existence. It simply is. There’s a childlike sense of wonder whilst also being intensely adult. It’s very unlikely ever to be huge box office but it’s utterly charming as it follows Natasha and her travails with her new-found appendage. How to deal with co-workers – the ugly sisters – and neighbours, as the rather impressive tail grows. And could there be love? Love from someone despite the tush…or even because of it?
Choc full of sparkling scenes of gentle comedy and introspection, Zoology does not judge. The various hags, crones and other inhabitants of the coastal town may have some rather devilish views concerning their mutating cohabitee, but the film simply observes the really quite odd goings-on.
A movie that is equal parts amusing, touching and, initially at least, baffling, it’s a little gem. Beautifully acted and directed, Zoology is a window into a world of marvellous characters, both good and ill. Lovely stuff and deserves to be seen as widely as possible. Impossible not to smile at its eccentric logic that is, despite the supernatural nature of the plot, intensely human and humane.