Lev Yashin Black Spider 2019 Лев Яшин. Вратарь моей мечты

Black Spider (Лев Яшин. Вратарь моей мечты), 2019

The Black Spider: Learning Russian Through Film

Published: September 11, 2021

Produced by Kremlin Films and released in late 2019, Лев Яшин. Вратарь моей мечты, was later released under various English names: The Goalie of my Dreams, The Dream Goalkeeper, or, especially for its release in England, The Black Spider. The film is the biopic of legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin, known as “The Black Spider” for his spider-like reflexes as a goalie and the black jersey he donned for each match. He was the long-time goalkeeper for both Dynamo Futbol Club and The Soviet National Team. Yashin remains in the pantheon of Soviet-era athlete heroes due to his immense success for both club and county.

It can be viewed on the Yandex search engine in Russian.

Synopsis of The Black Spider

The Black Spider begins in 1949 on a dusty pitch in Gagra, a tourist town on the Black Sea coast in what is now Georgia. With a smattering of semi-interested onlookers Yashin, despite a few quality saves, is distracted and ultimately humiliated as he misplays an opposition clearance that ends up in the back of his goal. Among the onlookers watching the Dynamo second team is current first team starting goalkeeper Alexei “Tiger” Khomich.

Returning to the capital, Yashin is called upon in his first major appearance when  “Tiger” Khomich goes down with an injury against Spartak. At this stage, the film shows an undeniably talented but still raw player in Yashin, who, despite his skills between the posts, still struggles with judging crosses and making defensive clears.

In the first half of the film, we are also shown the roots of both the rivalry and the life-long friendship between Yashin and veteran keeper Khomich that would change Yashin’s career. Arguably some of the best moments of the film ensue, as despite knowing full well that Yashin represents a real threat to his role as starting keeper, Khomich, seeing Yashin’s talent, decides to assist in helping round out his game. Through the tutelage of Khomich, Yashin’s full potential is finally unleashed and his is given the starting role for Dynamo FC.

The second act of the film centers around Yashin’s courting of his future wife Valentina and his time with the Soviet National Team. Yashin’s club career is also seen bringing him a new level fame amongst the Moscow sporting faithful.

Yashin’s legendary performance for the USSR in the 1960 European Nation’s Cup would vault him into an entirely new level of stardom. After the close of the Paris-based tournament, we are shown the now famous interaction between Yashin and the legendary President of Real Madrid, Santiago Bernabeu. A scene which will certainly be enjoyed by those with an appreciation for soccer history, Yashin is offered millions by the soccer icon Bernabeu to make the switch from Dynamo to the Spanish powerhouse. Ultimately Yashin, according to both the film and Dynamo lore, turns down this lucrative offer out of love for his hometown club.

The Black Spider also shows that Yashin’s legendary career was not without its low points. A disappointing performance in the 1962 World Cup leads to the vilification of Yashin by fans at home (the film shows Yashin returning to a graffitied home and vandalized car amongst other forms of harassment). The pressure seems to almost break the despondent keeper as he contemplates retirement in the Russian countryside. Ultimately, we see Yashin persevere and return to the pitch to begin a new chapter in his 20+ year career.

Analysis of The Black Spider

Critics and amateur viewers alike put forth mixed opinions of The Black Spider. While only receiving a 6.4/10 rating on IMDb, the film, as expected, resonated more amongst Russian audiences, receiving a higher collective rating of 8.5/10 on the Russian online viewing site IVI. Positive reviews of the film centered around the performances of Alexsandr Fokin (Yashin) and Yuliya Khlynina (Valentina Yasin). Their enduring partnership in the film along with Yashin’s moments of perseverance seemed to produce a strong emotional response from its viewers. In contrast, various negative reviews point to the occasionally corny and outdated special effects. Such criticisms are valid and can be expected with The Black Spider having been filmed with an estimated budget of only USD $8,000,000.

Watching The Black Spider as an Intermediate Student of Russian

Critical reviews aside, The Black Spider is an entertaining and at times moving film that, if nothing else, offers those interested in the Soviet period an interesting look at day to day life. From watching factory workers gather around a single black and white television, to the seeing Yashin ride the iconic Moscow Soviet tram system, one does indeed walk away with a sense of life in 1950/60’s Moscow.

Those immersed in Russian language studies will also enjoy the frequent use of various sporting terms. Some of the more regular vocabulary used in the film are the following:

  • передать – to pass,
  • побеждать/победить – to win,
  • играть – to play,
  • товарищ – comrade or teammate,
  • команда – team
  • вратарь – goalkeeper.

Watch The Black Spider Online

Watch the full movie on the Yandex search engine in Russian.

Watch the trailer below:

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About the author

Zachary Hicks

Zach Hicks is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. He is currently participating in SRAS's Home and Abroad scholarship program. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature, socialist modernism, and critical theory. Outside of academics his major interests are martial arts, the outdoors, and music. In Russia, he plans to continue to increase his language proficiency, to learn as much as possible about the Russian underground music scene, its tattoo culture, and to become a student of Russia’s native martial art, SAMBO.

Program attended: Art and Museums in Russia

View all posts by: Zachary Hicks