Good Russian Movies You Should Watch
I personally believe that the Russian film industry is going through severe crisis. It either tries to blend in the European movie industry by adopting the same plots (which turns out to be hideous in the end) or puts on display the most notorious and odious features of the national identity (just take a look at “Kiss them all!” movie).
Though every rule has an exception, and sometimes on the Russian silver screen appear some decent movies. I am going to list some of the prominent Russian movies that are worth watching for one reason or another.
The Major, 2013
Movie director: Yury Bykov
Film genre: action film
Running time: 99 minutes
The story takes place in the Ryazan area of Russia. The protagonist is the Police Major Sergei Sobolev whose wife is just about to give birth to a baby. The plot is plain simple: Sergei Sobolev gets an urgent call from his wife and immediately rushes to get to her in time. On his way to the hospital he hits a little boy on a pedestrian crossing, causing his death. The only witness of this was the boy’s mother. The Police Major makes a call to his colleagues right away and they come to the place of occurrence to cover his tracks, meanwhile the Major keeps the mother locked away in his car. His desire to get away with the crime causes a series of other deaths — the whole family of the boy eventually gets murdered.
The system of law enforcement agencies is shown to be rotting from the inside. Those who must protect people, murder them instead. Those, who people are supposed to trust, are depicted as liars, murderers and hypocrites.
A common thread running thorugh the whole scenario is the feeling of hopelessness and despair. It is like a horror movie, though the horror is happening in reality. That is the way things get done in Russia from the movie director’s viewpoint.
This movie makes us question ourselves as to how we live, what we have become, or if there is anything we can do to escape from this vicious circle. The movie is about always having a choice to make and it the choice is ours.
Legend No. 17, 2013
Movie director: Nikolai Lebedev
Movie genre: biographical sports movie
Running time: 134 minutes
Legend №17 is a biographical story of Valeri Kharlamov taking place in 1967–1972 in the USSR. It is a real-life movie about the Soviet hockey player Valeri Kharlamov winning fame and about the first match of the Summit Series USSR — Canada 1972. On September, 2 1972 the Soviet hockey team swept the first match of the epochal Super Series despite Kharlamov’s injured leg, hostile atmosphere, climate change and jet lag. We can observe Kharlamov doing his very first steps in professional sports, finding his route to the goal and his internal struggles. That is a story about a talented guy who fights his way through life obstacles to achieve his goals.
Even those who are not much enthusiastic about hockey are highly likely to relish this movie. It was spectacularly successful in Russia and the movie got glowing reviews from many of those who had watched it. It also stands out from dozens of such movies because of a very accomplished actor and a consummate professional who gave a dazzling display of his talents — Danila Kozlovsky.
And it’s not about winning only, it also puts on display such moral aspects of life as love and friendship, cohesion and loyalty, will power and an unbreakable spirit.
Even though it’s no startling originality, it manages to keep you on tenterhooks throughout the whole movie and as the suspense builds up by the final scene, you may find yourself biting your nails because of the tension.
Movie director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Movie genre: tragedy movie
Running time: 127 minutes
The movie director in his interview for TimeOut explains that the choice of the movie title is conditioned by the profound meaning it brings. It is not just the absence of love, it is in, every sense of the word, just the exact opposite of love. Zvyagintsev wanted to depict a family crisis when a couple is together for 10–12 years.
A stark story about a married couple: Boris, a bearded and officious man who works in sales and his wife, Zhenya, a beautiful woman who works as a manager of a beauty salon. Their relationship has reached a point of no return. Both of them have lovers already —she is dating an older and handsome well-off man, to whom she confesses to have fallen in love with for the first time; he is dating a young woman whom he has already got pregnant. They quarrel endlessly and are going to file for divorce and sell their run-down apartment. The only obstacle they have is their common child, a 12-year-old child who suffers most from the current situation. Alyosha is aggressive and disobedient, he spends his days playing computer days.
One night Alyosha, who was supposed to be sleeping, overheard a dialogue between his parents. They were arguing about the future of their son: none of them wanted to raise the child after the divorce. They were considering the option of sending him into an orphanage. Alyosha’s face frozen in fear and agony makes your heart die within yourself.
The other day the boy goes to school and never returns. Zhenya and Boris are desperate to find their child, they call for help of the police, volunteer groups, hospitals and morgues. Alyosha has vanished into thin air. And this is not a story about a cooperation that leads to reunion of the family, nor is it about “toughly realistic rapprochement between the warring parents as they realise that must join forces at least temporarily to find their boy”. It’s quite the opposite, the conflict exacerbates into tremendous hatred to each other and self-loathing, Zhenya and Boris only turn on each other all the more savagely.
The movie is grim and emotional, it reaches out to people and leaves a bad taste in the mouth, making you contemplate on what is true happiness, or why seemingly the most closest people do not care about each other. And it makes you wonder why there is so much of “lovelessness” in this world.
I Am Losing Weight, 2018
Movie director: Aleksey Nuzhnyy
Movie genre: comedy movie
Running time: 102 minutes
I tend to think that Russian comedy is experiencing a heavy decline in terms of what could be called a “decent” motion picture. Mostly because while watching these you often feel crying shame for the whole film crew, especially the scriptwriter.This movie has limited a number of such scenes to a minimum.
What is more, the underlying idea of this movie is not just about losing weight, as the movie director and the movie maker say. They claim to have done a research on how women perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others, to have interviewed many women. They questioned themselves as to why they were making a movie about women. The answer was — because men do not encounter the problems women do in Russia. Men are not supposed to be attractive, to groom themselves. And this forms moral values in the country that are later reflected in the aforementioned “typical Russian comedies” with disgusting jokes that make you feel sick.
The movie tells a story about Anya, a young lady who is addicted to food and emotionally dependent on her boyfriend Zhenya, a young man with a beach-ready body who works as a fitness instructor. Lately Anya has gained some weight and Zhenya feels extremely uncomfortable with her in public, so he comes up with the decision of breaking up with Anya.
Anya is deeply frustrated but eager to lose weight at all hazards. She calls round a support group for weight loss but feels extremely embarrassed gives up the idea up until the moment an annoying guy from the support group texts Anya persuading her to be his weight loss mentor. At last she agrees and they set off on a long journey to self-respect and self-acceptance.
It’s not only about respecting yourself or gender equality (though the latter is so slightly reflected in the movie that it is almost invisible), but also about becoming an adult, being responsible for your own actions and words and being altruistic.