Timmy Straw at The Paris Review:
1990’s The Asthenic Syndrome takes us to Odesa, too, but this is an Odesa at the fraying edge of a Soviet time-space where, significantly, we never see the sea. The film is shot in places that suggest a borderland, an edge, a wobble: construction sites, mirrors, photographs, headstones, film screenings, cemeteries, a dog pound, a hospital ward, a soft-porn shoot. This in-between sense is temporal, as well: Muratova notes that she “had the great fortune of working in a period between the dominance of ideology and the dominance of the market, a period of suspension, a temporary paradise.” As with the asthenic syndrome itself (a state between sleeping and waking), the film is a realization of inbetweenness, an assembly of frictions and crossover states we feel through form: through Muratova’s use of juxtaposition; through her uncanny overpatterning of echoes and coincidences; through the shifts of register between documentary and opera. The film doesn’t proceed so much as weave itself in front of us, in a dazzling ivy pattern of zones and occurrences. You could call it late-Soviet baroque realism.