5 Good Russian Movies with English Subtitles
This is my second hub on Russian movies available to international viewers. If my first hub deals with Russian movies dubbed in English (what a treat, I know!), this one is more conventional, as I present five good Russian movies subtitled in English. So it happened that most of the movies here are based on Russian literature classics, which always has been the biggest strength of Russian cinema, together with its traditional acting school.
The Lady with the Dog // Дама с собачкой (1959)
The 1900s Yalta is the typical sea-resort scene: men flirt with women, women with men—for a week or two before they go back home to their duties of fathers, mothers, businessmen and civil servants. So happened the romance between one lady, who was always seen with her little dog by her side, and Dmitry Gurov, a young married banker from Moscow. The eternal question: is such a tense feeling doomed or destined to be something bigger and life-changing? The black and white film accentuates the excellent photography, bringing us to a time long gone; it won a Special Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. Based on a short story of the same title by Anton Chekhov.
Oblomov // Несколько дней из жизни Обломова (1980)
A several moments in the life of a man who slept his life away on the couch. Doesn't sound thrilling, I know, and yet it is the quintessential tragic Russian character. Oblomov is a landowner who lives off his serfs's labor at his estate, while he resides in St. Petersburg, a thousand miles away. His servant Grigory is his master's shadow: likewise lazy, weakling, and opposed to anything new. Most of the time Oblomov dreams and eats, destroying his health and wealth. His childhood friend Stolz, a German enterpreneur, tries to revive Oblomov by inviting him to parties and finally introducing him to a young lady, with whom Oblomov eventually falls in love. Out of his dusty dark apartment he moves to the fresh green country: a perfect chance to start anew, to revive the ideals of his college youth...
You see the tragedy of a man who is a true hostage of his upbringing, his habits and his poor will, and who, while realizing all that, cannot do anything about it; even the mighty Stolz fails to get him out of that lethargy. Set in the 1850s, the movie made by Nikita Mikhalkov is based on Ivan Goncharov's novel of the same title.
Unfinished Piece for the Player Piano // Неоконченная пьеса для механического пианино (1977)
Another Nikita Mikhalkov's movie, this time based on Anton Chekhov's play with the latter's typical setting - a fin-de-siecle country estate on the decline. It is a drama of intervowen love triangles and suppressed feelings.
The local gentry gathers for a midsummer party. The main character, Platonov, sees among the invited guests his former sweetheart, whom he has not seen for many years. They are both married by now, but what's more important is that they are light years away from the ideals they both used to share. Looking at her as a mirror of his past, he suddenly realises that by the age of 35 he has achieved practically nothing, despite the great aspirations of his youth. Ashamed that he had allowed life to betray his ideals, he gets bitter towards himself, his wife, his friends and the entire world... This soul torture notwithstanding, the movie is pretty lively and full of little comic scenes.
Brother // Брат (1997)
After Pulp Fiction, Europe experienced a series of similar groundbreaking crime-flavored films (Trainspotting; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Run, Lola, Run). Alexei Balabanov's Brother followed the trend. Demobee Danila, played by Sergei Bodrov, arrives in St. Petersburg, hoping that his older brother would help him with his new post-army life. Danila's brother happens to be a gangster and he offers Danila a killer's job. Danila takes it and his brother's rival gang is now after them both.
Quite novel was the moral charge of the movie: what Danila does is bad, yet strangely we do not feel compelled to condemn him. After almost a decade of decline, Russian cinema found a new language and new themes with his film, which became immensely popular and has become a cult classic, a perfect portrait of the troublesome '90s Russia.
My other hubs on foreign movies
- 5 Good Russian Movies Dubbed in English
The biggest advantage of Russian cinema lies in its traditional acting school as well as exploitation of great Russian literature and complicated history. Each decade seemed to have a certain theme that...
- 8 Good German Movies with English Subtitles
What kind of movies would come from a country of poets, philosophers and scientists? Indeed, Germany, which gave us Beethoven, Kant, Goethe and Röntgen, has always been indefatigable in quest for humanism, and German...