Ukrainian (Film) History 101: Asthenic Syndrome

Kira Muratova’s magnum opus portrays an exhausted school teacher unable to stay awake in a decadent Soviet society.

Kira Muratova
Running time
Country of origin
Soviet Union
Довженко-Центр / Dovzhenko Centre
100% of the ticket sales are forwarded to the largest Ukrainian film archive – Dovzhenko Centre in Kyiv, that is struggling to keep its doors open during the invasion.

Asthenic Syndrome, named after the medical condition described as chronic lack of strength and decrease of vital power, earned Kira Muratova the Silver Bear award at Berlinale just a few months after the Berlin Wall collapsed.

This peculiar film cemented her position as one of the most important authors from Ukraine and remains her most praised work, despite the unusual story-telling devices, long running time and thematical complexity.

Using a post-modernist technique that would later become a staple in her work, Muratova opens this film with a black-and-white drama of a recently widowed woman. Forty minutes into this story, Asthenic Syndrome’s main plotline begins as we witness the main character waking up in the cinema where the black-and-white film screened. Subsequent color footage follows Nikolai, a secondary school teacher, who keeps falling asleep at most inappropriate moments, such as a bus ride or a parent-teacher meeting. His narcolepsy presents a defence-mechanism against the surroundings whose moral degradation has become unbearable.

Most critics saw this as a parable of the decaying Soviet society, that seemed to be entering a collective state of asthenia, but this cinematic gem that breaks all film conventions is much more than a plain political critique.

Full program

1st June Zvenigora
7th June Shadows of Forgotten
Ancestors + Kyiv Frescoes

14th June Asthenic Syndrome
21st June Oxygen Starvation

All screenings begin at 19:30.

Click on a film title for more information and separate tickets.

Click here for the description of the whole program and the discounted combi-ticket of 24,08€.