In this remote Russian district, the fishing and tea season never ends. Fishseller Polina suffers from insomnia after the loss of her brother. A beshawled old woman she meets gives her a packet of tea. As Polina scales fish and longs to dream, she drinks the bittersweet concoction and suddenly finds herself in a ministry full of wig powder and the Tsar’s daughters. On her way to a transformation to look just like the immaculately graceful Vasilisa the Beautiful from the fairy tale, the girl is immersed into lessons in decorum, tarkhun toasts and the labyrinths of Russian women’s self-confidence.
Director Uldus Bakhtiozina is a photographer and costume designer who has studied political science and graphic design; Tzarevna Scaling is her first feature film. The film can be understood in two ways: as a fairy tale with modernised folk elements dedicated to her father, and as an analysis of Russian female archetypes set in post-Soviet interiors and untamed natural exteriors. Displaying a masterful understanding of the history of Russian fashion, Bakhtiozina has used her eclectic style to cobble together an absurd mix of empiric salmon scales, Tatar baroque and village glamour to give contemporary viewers a screening that has a single-minded drive to embody one specific genre – the fairy tale.