14 Essential Films For An Introduction To Post-Soviet Russian Cinema

8. The Italian (Andrei Kravchuk, 2005)

The Italian

Vanya is 6 years-old and he lives in an orphanage somewhere in the outskirts. He is about to be adopted by an Italian couple when, with the help of an unfortunate event, he realizes he has to find his mother, and goes on the search.

We follow Vanya through many towns and see him meet a lot of different people, most of them softened and touched by his story. The Italian is a very sweet and touching film, and leaves us feeling immensely happy at the sight of Vanya’s never-ending hope and determination.


9. Playing The Victim (Kirill Sererebrennikov, 2006)


This is the movie that perfectly shows the Russian soul, with its plot, costumes, decorations, dialogues, monologues, music. None of these are special, but sometimes less is more. Valya works at the police station and what he does is mimicking exactly the way the victims have been killed. There are also other members of the police staff: self-obsessed camera-woman Liuda, dumb Seva, and the charismatic Captain.

Valya lives with his mother, uncle and girlfriend in a small Moscow flat. Valya’s father died in a tragic accident, which still haunts him in his dreams. The film is amazing with its camera angles and the avant-garde animations in between the takes, which give us a look inside Valya’s mind. The film is also very famous for the Captain’s 8-minute-long monologue, which touches a very fragile topic – the degrading generation of youngsters.


10. The Island (Pavel Lungin, 2006)

The Island

The Island touches a subject so much loved by the post-Soviet countries: faith and religion. This film tells the story of a sailor-turned-Orthodox-monk, who survived from the Nazis 30 years ago by shooting his comrade.

This sin follows Anatoly for the rest of his life and while he is very loved as a prophet, priest and healer, his sin gets ahead of him everytime and he often goes to a deserted island to pray for his own soul. The Island makes us think about God and his powers and whether or not God gives us what we want, or what we actually need.


11. Mermaid (Anna Melikyan, 2007)


It’s impossible to tell the story of Alice in Mermaid without spoiling all the fun. There are a few things that can be said, though: Alice is not a real mermaid, Alice has the power to grant her own wishes, but in a very twisted way, Alice falls in love with the same man her friend Rita loves, Alice dies her hair green to impress the man she loves, Alice is played by Mariya Shalaeva, Russia’s most beloved and artistic actress today.

This filmed was dubbed as the Russian Amelie, and though the directing style does fit this description, the tragic, yet comic story of Alice has little to do with Amelie. The film focuses on an outsider’s view on loneliness and living in a huge metropolis like Moscow, where people look at neon banners instead of each other.


12. Stilyagi (Valery Todorovsky, 2008)


Stilyagi is the film that was destined for success. Its pace and colors are simply amazing. Also, the plot and theme of the film is something we have seen before in older Soviet cinema. Stilyagi is about Russian SSSR youngsters in 50s who are tired of living in the grey Soviet world, escaping from it by mimicking Americans.

They dress in bright colors, puffy dresses, checkered tuxedos. They listen to jazz and blues. They play drums and trombones and their behaviour definitely doesn’t satisfy the people around them. Mels, the main character, is a komsomol student who, by chance, meets the bright, beautiful and colorful Polly, one of the Stilyagis.

He enters the amazing world of jazz, booze, sex and music, but everything is not as easy in the Soviet Union as it is in the USA. The film deals with very important themes, which are still active in post-Soviet countries, mostly – how hard it is to be free in a country where freedom doesn’t exist.


13. Admiral (Andrei Kravchuk, 2008)


An epic biopic about the vice-Admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy and the leader of the anti-communistic movement. The film starts in the 1960s, where the actress and Russian noblewoman, Anna Timiryova, is supposed to play an extra in a film but get almost dismissed, for being the wife of the traitor. Then, the story goes back to 1914 and we are introduced to the Admiral, Alexander Kolchak.

The film tell the story of the Admiral’s struggles with his status and his love for Anna, while both of them are married. It also tells the tragic story of Anna, a great woman and wife, who does everything she can to save her beloved, but as the February Revolution begins, the Admiral get involved in some serious schemes of the Communists.


14. Nirvana (Igor Voloshin, 2008)

Nirvana film

Nirvana is a colourful and sad film. It’s fast-paced and depressing at the same time. Alisa, the main character, gets fed up with living in Moscow and goes to St. Petersburg to work as a nurse, where the adventures find her. There, she is introduced to Valera the Dead Man and his girlfriend, Vel. Both of them being junkies, Vel and Valera have a big effect on Alisa’s life.

Valera disappears, while Vel tries to live with her addiction and the problem is caused by Valera’s debts. The plot itself is not as interesting as the settings and the atmosphere of the film. The film is packed with over-the-top makeup and avant-garde clothing, neon lights and dialogues about life and addiction.

Author Bio: Salome Khazaradze began studying production design in the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in 2012. She also likes to write and hopes to make her own film or write a novel someday.