“Nachalo” (Beginning) by Gleb Panfilov is the dramatic tale of a talented woman from a provincial town who is accidentally cast in the role of Joan of Arc while performing in a local drama club. Masterfully played by the renowned stage and film actress Inna Churikova, Praskovya Stroganova, or Pasha for short, is a likeable and believable character whose dull life changes rapidly. She falls in love and her dream of becoming a real actress instead of simply playing a witch in the local club seems to be coming true.
As Pasha dives deeper into her new life, it becomes apparent that to bring about change means alienation from her previous self. The film’s parallel storylines change dynamically, acting as foils for each other. The main plot focuses on Pasha Stroganova, the provincial girl working in a factory, who is a bit awkward and shy, but talented and devoted. The second plotline follows the story of Joan of Arc, as portrayed by Pasha. As Joan struggles against her oppressive patriarchal world, Pasha overcomes challenges of her own. What unites the two characters is a fearless devotion to their dreams and ideals. The story mirrors the director's statement: “I am convinced that no matter what profession one has, one’s life is only fruitful when it is enlightened by a great idea. This is what I passionately yearned to make a film about.”
Panfilov was greatly impressed by Joan of Arc: “The idea of a film about Joan of Arc came to me after my first feature. This story as it seemed then, and I still think so now, fully expressed my perception of the world, of people, and society, of being in general, and I don’t mean a specific geographical or historical space, I mean the universe as a whole.” His film is both an homage to womanhood and to his muse and wife Inna Churikova, whose performance is an allegorical somersault: as Pasha returns to her hometown after the shooting, her ordinary life appears unchanged, but she's full of new experience and as devoted as ever.