Introducing TARKOVSKY AND CHILL: Watch a Soviet Film With Us Each Sunday! Episode #1: ‘Gorod Zero’ (English CC)

Each week we present you with a classic Soviet film (with English subtitles)

Sun, Feb 12, 2017
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We are very proud to present a new weekly feature, exclusive to your beloved Russia Insider.

It is called TARKOVSKY AND CHILL (all caps, always), and it is a very awesome and very Soviet derivative of "Netflix and chill", which has always been lukewarm at best. Just ask your girlfriend.

You want to round third base? Watch Soviet films. With us. Right now. Don't worry, there are English subtitles.

For our first installment of TARKOVSKY AND CHILL, we would like to share with you one of our all-time favorite films: Gorod Zero ("Zero Town"). It is not directed by Tarkovsky. But it is amazing. 

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A film about the end of Soviet identity. YEAH THAT'S DEEP.
A film about the end of Soviet identity. YEAH THAT'S DEEP.

This film is about a hapless Moscow engineer who takes a "business trip" to an obscure, provincial town in order to acquire the specifications for some sort of not-at-all-important mechanical part of a larger not-at-all-important mechanical machine.

But there is something very wrong with this provincial town.

When he visits the local magistrate (or whatever), the secretary (who is a total hottie) is completely naked. Our engineer protagonist then witnesses a murder during lunch at the local and very empty cafe. He's informed that he's the father of a man he's never met. Our hero's reality is turned upside down, to the point where he is invited to eat his own head, in cake-form. (Compliments of the chef.)

If this synopsis makes no sense to you — good! This film was made in 1988. Perestroika and Glasnost were challenging the very tenets of Soviet identity and purpose.

This film perfectly encapsulates the mind-numbing betrayal, confusion and hope that millions of Russians faced in the late 80s.

It's a film about coming to terms with your past, and looking with increasing unease to the future. Quite relevant in 2017.

It is a charming, haunting, tragic, and extremely funny film. It boasts perhaps the greatest monologue in Russian cinema. Speaking to the completely bewildered engineer-protagonist who is somehow wrapped up in an ongoing murder investigation, the town prosecutor bellows:

Since the times of the Mongol invasion, the main idea uniting us, which inspired generation of our forebears, is the idea of statehood. A great and mighty state is the ideal for which the Russian is willing to suffer, to bear any deprivation. Ready, if need be, to give his life. This is an irrational idea, not the pragmatic European striving to extract the maximum of personal profit. It’s the idea of the great Russian spirit, of which your individuality, and mine, is only a small subordinate part, but which repays us both a hundred times over. This feeling of belonging to a great organism inspires our spirits with a feeling of strength and immortality. The west has always striven to discredit our idea of statehood. But the greatest danger lies not in the West, but in our own selves. We grasp incessantly at all these fashionable western ideas, seduced by their oblivious rationality and practicality, not realizing that just these qualities give them a fatal power over us. But never mind. In the end, our own idea comes out on top.

Simultaneously the most encouraging and tragic truth that can be uttered about modern Russia. And it's from 1988.

Without further ado, please join us for the first ever TARKOVSKY AND CHILL! And remember to share your thoughts in the comments section!

Watch it now on YouTube: Gorod Zero (sorry, we aren't able to embed the video. And yes, there are English subtitles. Thank you MosFilms.)

The decapitation of the Soviet Union. Good or bad? Who cares — eat!The decapitation of the Soviet Union. Good or bad? Who cares — eat!

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