July 7, 2022

This blogger explaining Soviet films to foreigners on YouTube

Who are the blatnyé? Why did a woman take a chicken out of a bag and tell everyone about it? Why do people almost 40 years old live with their parents and this does not surprise anyone? This video blogger deciphers Soviet films for those unfamiliar with life in the USSR.

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“A 36-year-old bachelor gets drunk on New Year’s Eve and accidentally breaks into a woman’s apartment, ruining her romantic celebration with her fiancé!” A summary of a heartbreaking drama or a psychological thriller? Noooo! This is the plot of our most beloved New Years comedy! “, said Ekaterina’s voiceover, pointing to footage from the famous Soviet film Irony of Fate.

A year ago, she launched Soviet Movies Explained, a channel where she explains Soviet films to foreigners in English. Some of these works have even had the honor of being the subject of two or three episodes of transcription. Yes, Soviet cinema is not easy to understand, she believes, but it immerses itself deeply in the cultural context.

Nobody understands Soviet films

Ekaterina has lived in Berlin for over six years, after her husband found a job there in IT. She is a freelance architect in Moscow and “A child of the end of the Soviet era”.

“When we moved, I got the idea for a channel about the differences between life in Russia and Germany in English. However, things were changing quickly in Russia at the time, I didn’t have time to promote the channel and it died out, but the desire to shoot a New Years video on Irony of Doom haunted me. I heard a lot of complaints from acquaintances in Berlin who had dealings with Russians: “We watched Irony of Fate, but we didn’t get it!” And the subject of cultural differences has always interested me ”, she confides.

Ekaterina ultimately shot this video well and realized that this movie was far from the only one whose context and jokes could be misinterpreted. In fact, every Soviet movie needs an explanation.

“I don’t tell the plot, but use certain fragments to talk about the everyday aspects of this life. I have noticed that in the English speaking world there is an interest in Russia as something exotic, but there are still a lot of stereotypes due to the complete lack of understanding of how we used to live and why we behaved this way “.

Read also: These Soviet films in which Western stars played

Shortage of everything and eternal life with parents

Ekaterina has her personal ranking of the things that raise the most questions among foreigners: shortages, the massive construction of identical buildings, and family relationships in the USSR.

“There is a fragment in the film The Beloved by the mechanic Gavrilov where the beautifully dressed heroine walks down the street. Suddenly, someone opens in front of her a box with the large inscription “Made in Japan” on it. A crowd instantly gathers around the box, although no one has a clue what’s inside. She also stands in line, people jostle and shout. After receiving the goods, she removes the paper and inside is a basin of ordinary enamel. In evening dress, in heels, but now with this basin, she continues on her way “, describes Catherine.

The episode illustrates well what the shortage is, she explains. In Soviet times, you couldn’t just go to the store and buy whatever you wanted. “It created a particular psychological state across the nation: people were resourceful, enterprising, they knew what, where and how to get something, but at the same time, it was very grueling.”.

The key gag of The irony, on the other hand, is linked to other Soviet realities: everywhere, no matter what part of the country you are in, you can meet the exact same buildings and the same street names. However, the hero Jenia, after having drunk too much in a banya, flies to another city and enters what he believes to be his apartment. “Foreigners do not understand how you can take the wrong building and enter another exactly the same, and even another city. At the time, it was a planned economy, the houses had to be manufactured quickly and they were stamped and put together like a building set ”, éclaircit Ekaterina.

However, there was still a housing shortage. This is why the hero, 36 years old, still lives with his mother, which is socially acceptable.

Is it possible to understand the mentality of a nation through the films?

It is no coincidence that Ronald Reagan has watched several times Moscow does not believe in tears before meeting Mikhail Gorbachev. He wanted to understand the “mysterious Russian soul”, but never did, although this is one of the most suitable films if you want to understand Russians, says Catherine.

“This is about both the desire to ‘conquer Moscow’ and the acute housing problem. All of these things are still relevant today, says Ekaterina. This is why Soviet cinema also deals with the modern inhabitants of the country ”.

Moreover, Soviet cinema is interesting in itself and not just as an anthropological “sketch”, says the blogger. He’s just different.

“He’s definitely good. He’s unique due to the censorship (strange as that sounds) and the fact that he wasn’t commercial at all. Whereas in the West there was competition for audiences and films had to be entertaining or scandalous, with us everything was done “for the art” or for the needs of the Party. Watch the comedies of Leonid Gaïdai or Eldar Ryazanov. They are wonderful because they have intelligent humor, without any vulgarity. This is the best proof that the Russians, too, know how to laugh and be funny ”.

In this other article, we have selected ten must-see Soviet films for you.

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