Some of My Favorite Russian Films - Highly Recommended Viewing
I decided to continue to change things up a bit today. My wife and I were deciding on a movie to watch for the evening and I realized that I rarely, if ever, speak about my favorite films on Steemit. So, rather than pick out all my favorite English language films (Tombstone/Saving Private Ryan are tied for 1st), I am going to share some of my favorite Russian language films. Don't worry, you can watch them with subtitles.
There are a great many to choose from, but I've narrowed it down to 3 because most of the stupid lists I read have 10 and I (you probably either) don't have time to explain what 10 Russian films are about and why you should watch. Therefore, you get the abbreviated version.
Just so you know. These are not in any particular order. I haven't truly contemplated where I would rank each of them in the grand scheme of Russian film yet. I will take some time to ponder this. Keep in mind that it took me 10 years to decide that I couldn't decide which I liked better - Tombstone or Saving Private Ryan.
Here we go.
Drum Roll Please...
#1 - Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром! -The Irony of Fate or ...(it doesn't translate, but I'll explain)
This film is a classic Russian film that is played in every house in Russia on New Year's Eve. Of course the setting for the film is on New Year's Eve so that would make sense. It is a great comedy/drama/romance with music - Yes, it has it all. It is a truly wonderful film that will make you smile, laugh, and even dream a bit.
Plot - Dude meets up with his buds like he does every year on New Year's Eve in Moscow and goes to the Banya during the day. Banya is Russian sauna and it isn't like hanging out in the Steam room at your local gym. Banya is a Russian event. It often involves large amounts of beer, vodka, salted/dried fish as one rotates in and out of a very hot steam room. There are a ton of rituals associated with a trip to the banya, which I will save for another post.
Needless to say, dude is supposed to meet up with his semi-charming fiancee after banya with the boys, but as you can imagine, hot steam, dehydration, copious amounts of vodka and beer don't mix well and he passes out. His friends, drunk as well take him to the airport as they need to put one of their drunk friends on a plane to St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, they put him on the plane instead. A short flight later dude wakes up in Piter, but doesn't realize it and takes his drunk ass to "his" apartment by taxi.
Of course, every city in Russia has similar apartment buildings during the Soviet era on similarly named streets so he ends up going into some ladies apartment while she isn't there to sleep off his drink. He thinks it is his apartment, the lady who lives there comes home and hilarity ensues.
"С лёгким паром!" is a greeting that Russians give each other after they have been to the banya. It is a very traditional statement, but the literal translation is like "have a good steam!" but it doesn't capture the essence of the phrase. Some things just don't translate well and this is one of them.
Great film. It would be a classic in America also.
Interesting Fact - The lead actress in the film is actually Polish. However, the Ministry of Film was so unhappy with her Russian that a native Russian did a voice over for all her dialogue in the film. You won't notice because you'll be reading the subtitles.
#2 - Москва слезам не верит - Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears
Another classic film from the Soviet era, but this one even won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is an endearing tale about 3 girls living in a dormitory in Moscow after finishing school. They are working and seeking love and companionship like every girl in the world at that age. The 3 girls take very different paths in their lives based on their decisions and have decidedly different outcomes and the film follows them (with a break in between their youth and their 30's).
It will hold your attention if you like romantic/drama/comedy all wound into one. Not so much music in this one.
I will give a huge UPVOTE to anyone that catches the TRUE moral to this story because most people don't get the real message (not even most Russians I know). Put your guesses in the comments.
It is split into 2 parts on YouTube.
#3 - Брат - Brother
This is the very first Russian language film I watched in its entirety. It is filmed on location in St. Petersburg in the 1990's - a period known as "The Wild East" because of the lawlessness and lack of order following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The film follows the main character Danil played by Sergei Bedrov Jr after he is discharged from the Army. He is sent to live with his brother in St. Petersburg. However, his brother is a bit of a gangster and Danil is thrust into some very difficult situations. The film is loaded with great Russian Classic Rock (Nautilius Pompelius does the soundtrack) and features some of the top music acts of the 90's in cameos such as Шевчук, the lead singer of DDT (a hugely popular Russian rock band - I will leave a link).
The film is a bit dark at times as Danil comes to grips with the different ways that people are embracing the changes in Russia in the 90's. Keep an eye on the 3 female characters (hint - the first is his mother). Each one represents a different vision of Russia - a similarity with the women in Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago.
If you have been reading my posts you will recognize many of the sites in the movie. Personally, I have visited every place where a scene in the film was shot except those in the opening acts, which were not done in St. Petersburg. It was a very cool self-tour including the cemetery.
This clip is only the 1st of 8 on YouTube, but it is available on Netflix last I checked with subtitles (the others might be as well).
Hope you enjoy them and I look forward to comments. I will think about posting some of my other favorites in the future. All the best to you.
graphic by @habeebability
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