Countries & Movies: Russia

First of all, we want to make a reservation that it will be about the films of Russia, a country formed on the site of the RSFSR after the collapse of the USSR. Please do not confuse it with the Soviet Union. Since sometimes we have that many Soviet films are attributed to the Russian cinema. And sometimes it happens vice verse - Russian films are attributed as the Soviet ones. We will talk about the Soviet films a little later: in our rubric "Countries & Movies" we move alphabetically, if someone did not notice.

The list of Russian films included in the Golden Thousand is headed by Andrei Zvyagintsev's film "The Return".

The premiere of the film "The Return" - the directorial debut of Andrei Zvyagintsev - took place in Russia on June 25, 2003.

Shortly after the premiere, the film "The Return" participated in the Venice International Film Festival, where received several awards, including the highest - "Golden Lion". After the film was shown, the audience applauded it standing for 15 minutes. And this despite the fact that, according to the observer of the British "Guardian" Fiachra Gibbons, "But The Return's path to the Golden Lion could be blocked by what many critics are calling "a blatant piece of nationalist skullduggery" on the jury. With the organisers of the festival answering to the Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who was delighted when they declared that it would favour commercial films, there are fears the top prize will go to a homegrown movie to please Rome."

And the applicants for the "Golden Lion" from Italy in the competition program were as many as two: "Buongiorno, notte (Good Morning, Night)" by Marco Bellocchio and "Segreti di stato (Secret File)" by Paolo Benvenuti. True, both films were quite average. But there was a real masterpiece in the competition program, albeit an American one - “21 grams” by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Still, the jury, chaired by 89-year-old Mario Monicelli, preferred the film of A.Zvyagintsev.

One of the most famous Russian film critics, Andrei Plakhov, told two stories in his review of the film. First: "Allegedly, Silvio Berlusconi in a conversation with Vladimir Putin made a complaint: why the hell you took away two Golden Lions from us at once? In response, it sounded: "What have we got to do with it? Your Italians gave them away”. The largest Italian television corporation RAI, which financed the Bellocchio's movie, said that because of the vile decision of the jury RAI will boycott the Venice Festival." Second: when Mario Monicelli, after the festival, was “asked if he was afraid to lose his job, the jury chairman replied: “I’m eighty-nine years old, I have shot more than a dozen films. One more, one less - it doesn’t bother me anymore.” Maybe these are legends, but maybe not.

However, not at all European film festivals Zvyagintsev's film was recognized as the winner. For example, at the Locarno Film Festival, the film "The Return" was nominated for the main prize - the Golden Leopard. But, according to the decision of the jury of the festival, this award went to the Pakistani film "Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters)". It is difficult to say how justified this decision was: in Russia, few saw this film. If anyone saw at all. But, based on the fact that the total number of people who watched this film in all of Europe does not exceed 100 thousand people, and the total box office was $ 7,384, it can be concluded that the jury of the Locarno Festival was handled exclusively by political motives. However, a kind of consolation can be considered that the company of “losers” to Zvyagintsev’s film was made up of Kim Ki-Duk’s wonderful picture “Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom 봄 여름 가을 겨울 그리고 봄 (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter ... and Spring)”.

The film "The Return" was also nominated for a French Cesar Award and again failed. But in this case, everything is quite explainable and deserved: the prize was awarded to Clint Eastwood's “Mystic River”, and in the company of “losers” along with Andrei Zvyagintsev’s film were “Gangs of New York” by Martin Scorsese and “The Hours” by Stephen Daldry.

And yet, we can say that in Europe the film "The Return" was a tremendous success. A kind of fixation of this tremendous success can be considered the obtaining of European Film Award in the nomination European Discovery. Yes, this is not the highest award. But compete with such masterpieces as “Dogville” by Lars von Trier and “Goodbye, Lenin!” by Wolfgang Becker, for a debutant of international film festivals, debutant in the field of filmmaking, and besides, a person without a director's education, is extremely complicated. This is why the already mentioned Fiachra Gibbons called the film of Andrei Zvyagintsev "the most astonishing Russian debut since Andrei Tarkovsky's".

...And how hard it is to realize that against the backdrop of such a phenomenal success of the film, one of the boys - leading actors - Volodya Bardin died without even waiting for the premiere of the movie!

The fate of "The Return" at the main American film forums was completely different. The film was not nominated for an Oscar at all. And at the Golden Globe the film was nominated in the nomination "Best Foreign Language Film", but the matter was limited only to the nomination. And well, it would be absolutely understandable if "Goodbye, Lenin!" or "Invasion of the barbarians", both recognized masterpieces of cinema, got this award. But no! Golden Globe was awarded to "Osama", a rather average film by Afghan director Siddik Barmak, which funded by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the opposition to the current Iranian regime. Do you think politics intervened in cultural life in this case or not?

However, it is possible that indeed politics has nothing to do with it, but the thing is that the American jury was simply not able to understand Zvyagintsev’s film. Indeed, even our esteemed Roger Ebert gave “Return” only 2.5 stars out of 4 possible and described it as "a Kafkaesque story, in which ominous things follow one another with a certain internal logic but make no sense at all". That is, even the guru of American film criticism could not understand what turned out to be completely understandable to the figures of European cinema.

That's why Andrei Zvyagintsev had to explain through the newspaper The New York Times what he wanted to show in the film. «"I wanted to remind people that biblical tales actually penetrate our lives," said Mr. Zvyagintsev, who turns 40 on Friday, when "The Return" opens in New York. "Because human beings don't change — they face the same questions and are looking for the same answers today as they did centuries ago. What is love? What is sacrifice? Is love a matter of patting someone on the shoulder and speaking tender words, or of taking action, sometimes irreversible or fatal?"

However, according to Sergei Kudryavtsev, domestic film critics also did not greatly exceed mentally overseas film critics. In his review of the film “The Return” in 2007, Kudryavtsev wrote: “Our critics have met “The Return” with restraint, and even with polite perplexity - why are foreign filmmakers going crazy?! Our critics are madly in love with the ordinary “Boomer” by Peter Buslov, praised to the skies and seriously compared with Shakespeare’s tragedies and Gogol’s poem “Dead Souls”! If it went to the West, “Boomer” would be considered only a student’s copying of the losers of American cinema more than thirty years ago."

Although, probably, Sergey Kudryavtsev was too thick, talking about restraint and polite perplexity in relation to the film in his native land. After all, in 2004 the film was awarded the Nika and Golden Eagle awards - the main cinema awards in Russia.

Meanwhile, more than 70% of IMDB and Kinopoisk users around the world gave the film “The Return” ratings from 8 to 10. Yes, and the box office of the film was more than impressive: the fees were 10 times higher than the budget. For a Russian movie, this is generally a rarity.

Based on the foregoing, the rating of the film "The Return", according to FilmGourmand, was 9,096, so the film takes 137th place in the Golden Thousand.

In addition to the film “Return”, another 15 films of Russian cinema entered the Golden Thousand. The list of these films can be found here.