12 Russian Films from 2014 Worth Your Attention

Published: February 15, 2015

Last year, Russian cinema was marked by Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathon, which was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. The film was released to the general public at the beginning of February, 2015.

There has been a lot of talk about Nikita Mikhalkov’s film Sunstroke, and Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Postman’s White Nights. But there have been other interesting films this year, too, as well as impressive directorial debuts, most of which no one has heard of. Forbes compiled a list of 10 of these films in December.

AdMe.ru, a Russian site dedicated to Russian popular culture and advertising, immediately saved the list of films, with plans to watch them over the holidays.

First, however, let’s start with the first three big films mentioned here and move on to the others…

Sunstroke / Солнечный удар

Postman Alexei Tryapitsyna’s White Nights /
Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына

Leviathan / Левиафана

Star / Звезда

The story of an unsophisticated provincial woman, hoping to make a career in Moscow as an actress, intersects with the story of another woman, once a newcomer herself and now a cosmopolitan Grande Dame. The two heroines – one naïve and young, the other worldly – unexpectedly cross paths. The roles of the Russian provincial women are played by two previously unknown actresses with difficult-to-pronounce last names: Tinatin Dalakishvili, (who resembles both Milla Jovovich and “Soviet Audrey Hepburn” Ia Ninidze in this film), and Severiya Yanushauskaite. Both are incredible. Director: Anna Melikian

Trailer only available:

The Fool / Дурак

This film’s subject is a simple and – rare in Russia – honest man, the son of an equally foolish father. The protagonist is a plumbing foreman, and a student at an engineering institute, where he studies building conditions using computer analysis. His analyses lead him to the realization that an old nine-story building used for workers’ housing, which he visited on an emergency call, will collapse within 24 hours. Feeling responsible, he tries to avert the catastrophe. Director: Yury Bykov.

Full film available

The Hope Factory / Комбинат «Надежда»

A film about the horror of being an 18-year-old girl in the provinces – in this case, in the city of Norilsk. In frustration, the heroine commits a crime. The crime is random and, by all appearances, will not lead to official punishment, but it will consume her life completely and irrevocably. Director: Natalia Meschaninova

Full film with English subtitles available

Welkome Home / Велкам хом

Plot: A comedy about newcomers to New York –Russian, Jewish, Armenian, even English. Some are there illegally. As director Angelina Nikonova explained: “It’s a story about people who have lost a sense of belonging to a particular geographical point, to the place that we call home. They all share a thirst for illusory success, which many of them spend years and decades chasing, sacrificing their fundamental values.” In the role of the Armenian, Karren Karagulian gradually takes on the appearance of an American indie film character. Incidentally, he co-authored Welkome Home with Nikonova and Dihovichnaya. Director: Angelina Nikonova

Trailer only available

A Film about Alekseev / Кино про Алексеева

This movie about a bard named Alekseev provides another phenomenal role for the great actor Aleksandr Zbruev. Alekseev lives in a village near Tula, selling pickled vegetables along the highway, and certain that he has been forgotten by everyone. But one day he is invited to Moscow for a radio broadcast dedicated to him, a famous bard. He doesn’t even have a guitar – he has to borrow one for the broadcast. There he unexpectedly learns that a record of his music has been produced, that he is listened to in the mountains and in space, and that he is famous among young people. He has been compared with bards Vladimir Vysotsky and Yuri Vizbor, and poets Bulat Okudzhava and Joseph Brodsky have spoken warmly of him. Director: Mikhail Segal

Full film available:

Corrections Class / Класс коррекции

Another story of the horrible life of a young woman in a provincial town. Another film (it seems to be a trend) about an honest and unusual person who faces hate everywhere in Russia. In this case, the heroine is a beautiful girl who, after years of being isolated due to illness, tries to become a regular student in her graduating class. Director: Ivan Tverdovsky

Full film available:

Sex, Coffee, Cigarettes / Sex, кофе, сигареты

Eleven comedic vignettes featuring conversations – some important, some less so – held in restaurants over coffee and cigarettes (how quickly time flies – cigarettes are banned in Russia’s restaurants now). The conversations are candid, and even veer into the territory of murder. In the final credits, the director apologizes to Jim Jarmusch, whose work (in the anthology Coffee and Cigarettes, which Jarmusch shot in pieces over many years) Oldenburg-Svintsov is clearly indebted to. Sex, Coffee, Cigarettes’s kinship with Jarmusch’s film extends to the fact that superstars play tiny roles in almost all of the vignettes. Their lines are sometimes so indecent that they wouldn’t dare to say them in any other film – it’s a sort of new “slap in the face of public taste.” Director: Sergei Oldenburg-Svintsov

Full film available:


Another Year / Еще один год

A young, cash-strapped married couple (instead of a bed, they have a mattress on the floor), find their love strained when the wife joins the world of hip projects and stylish parties, in her new role as graphic designer in a leading media company. The husband remains uneducated, an illegal cab driver by night with uneducated friends, clueless about the work of Krzysztof Kieślowski. They divorce, and he moves on to another woman, who accommodates him completely. But the ex-spouses continue to love each other. New Year’s 2013 turns into New Year’s 2014. Another year. An open-ended story. Director: Oksana Bychkova

Full film available:

Test / Испытание

In the late 1940s, a military father and his young, beautiful daughter lead an unassuming life on a secluded farm in the Kazakh steppe. They seem to live the way their Kazakh ancestors did one hundred and two hundred years ago, but they face a different reality. The father is dragged out in the rain one night, stripped naked, scared, and interrogated about something. His daughter is part of a new generation. Her favorite book is a volume of Mayakovsky. Of two suitors – a Kazakh, who courts her ceremonially, in the old-fashioned way, and a lively young Russian – she chooses the Russian. They will be faced with a test. Specifically the first Soviet nuclear bomb test, on the Semipalatinsk Test Site, which will destroy their farm. It will destroy them, too, along with their love, which matters to no one but them. Director: Alexander Kott

Full film available:

About the author

Josh Wilson

Josh has lived in Moscow since 2003, when he first arrived to study Russian with SRAS. He holds an M.A. in Theatre and a B.A. in History from Idaho State University, where his masters thesis was written on the political economy of Soviet-era censorship organs affecting the stage. At SRAS, Josh assists in program development and leads our Home and Abroad Programs. He is also the editor-in-chief for the SRAS newsletter, the SRAS Family of Sites, and Vestnik. He has previously served as Communications Director to Bellerage Alinga and has served as a consultant or translator to several businesses and organizations with interests in Russia.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

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