Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons

I have what I can only describe as a bizarre relationship with Pavel Chukhrai’s 2004 film “A Driver for Vera.”  I seem to conflate Vera with Anna Odinstova from Turgenev’s “Father’s and Sons.”

*Disclaimer* I have a passionate love affair with “Fathers and Sons” that knows neither boundaries nor sense, so my comparisons are colored by my emotions. Also I might be a bad person. *End Disclaimer*

The majority of the people I polled, all six of them, expressed some sort of distaste for Vera. They described her as arrogant, manipulative, and utterly spoiled. These are the same charges that I have heard against Odinstova. People act as though Vera and Odinstova should understand the plight of individuals who lack their monetary and social advantages. Vera has spent her entire life swaddled so tightly by her father that she barely has a life of her own, and Odinstova’s experience with poverty taught her to protect herself and her family, not pity others; what would make either character question the system under which they had spent their entire lives living?

By describing these women as manipulative and cruel, people fail to recognize their complexity. Odinstova and Vera are both desperate, lonely, and absolutely terrified. Vera is pregnant by a man who hardly acknowledges her, has been told all of her life that the only way anyone will love her is if Daddy threatens them, and images that her future remains trapped in a military complex friendless and alone. Odintsova’s loneliness may be more of her own making, but it protects her from the world. Whenever these women lash out, it is not out of sadism but out of fear.

When people watch “A Driver for Vera,” they seem to forget that her class does not make her immune from suffering.

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