From the freedom of the 1990s - into the jelly of the 2000s: what is the difference between the cult films Brother and Zhmurki
If the first cult film by Alexei Balabanova Brother became a kind of anthem of the freest era in the history of the country, then Zhmurki became the apotheosis of the usual Russian hopelessness.
May 18 marks the 7th anniversary of the unexpected and unjust death of the outstanding film director Alexei Balabanov. On this sad occasion, the popular blogger Alexei Roshchin recalled in his blog the very first of a series of cult films by Balabanov - Brother:
“Since yesterday I’ve been thinking about the movie Brother. It does not go, as they say, from the head. I admit right away that I feel a sharp difference between the two blockbusters of the post-Soviet film distribution - Brother and Brother-2. The second one is still nothing more than an attraction, a “cunning machine” assembled according to all the rules of the genre: there you have the Maxim machine gun from the museum, and the open-air pop diva, the repentant prostitute, and the Pindos goats - all set! And this, of course, is very much - since practically nobody knows how to shoot the “genre” with us.
In a word, Brother-2 is a wonderful mechanism made with some kind of non-Russian, almost Hollywood mastery for “collecting cash”; and the first Brother... The first Brother is alive. This is art, frack. A film that "breathes." It’s hard for me to explain something, in my opinion, it is “as clear as a simple gamma”. Although I want to explain, even to myself. What is the charm of Brother?
After all, Sergei Bodrov is really a bad actor. He has in his arsenal only two intonations and one facial expression for all occasions. And the songs in Brother are not such hits as in “Brother-2”. And the shootings there do not go to any comparison with the "sequel"...
It seems to me that Brother is the best and most accurate image of our 90s: that terrible and fun time that has now become almost legendary. Remember how they said then - “it will be fun and scary”? That was a joke.
This is his appeal, and that is precisely why he infuriates many to horror.
The image of the 90s is the image of Russian freedom. The only time in memory is not one, but several generations, which can be called "free." Unless you can still remember the war - in any case, some veterans said that at the front, on the front line and next to it, they sometimes also felt unprecedented, unrealistic over the whole past and subsequent life freedom.
And then, in 41-45, and in the "dashing 90s" this freedom was very close with death. Such, you see, is a feature of Russian freedom — it is very existential. Not for long and always "near the gloomy abyss".
Here is the Brother - about it. Balabanov, in fact, uses the same technique as Shakhnazarov in Courier: in order to show that the action is "at the turn of the eras" the hero is not entered into any context because there are no adequate "social roles" left in society - the director Takes the lead role of an unprofessional actor. This emphasizes that the hero is, as it were, a little “out of reality”. Here Bodrov fit in perfectly and “hit” - as 10 years earlier Fedya Dunaevsky “hit” his “courier”.
And here's another thought that suddenly struck me: after all, film Zhmurki, that was shot by Balabanov a lot later than Brothers is practically a variation on the same topic! Moreover: the main character of Zhmurki, Alexey Panin, is a very evil parody of Danila Bagrova! Or, more precisely, in Zhmurki Danila seemed to split into two young scumbag gopniks performed by Panin and Dyuzhev.
The plot coincidences of Brother and Zhmurki are almost textual: to recall at least that in both films in the plot center there are “death apartments” in typical panel high-rise buildings - where the heroes punish the victims, torture and shoot each other.
The only difference: in Brother there is a famous counterpoint: a large multi-storey building, apartments are one above the other: there is a “session” at the top, Butusov (himself!) Easily drinks wine, well-known and not very musicians just play there, just sing, there MUSIC - and very simple, friendly, friendly relations of creative people reign. And literally on the floor below, three hysterical and rude bandits are cut with the knives of competitors, they beat their brains out with shots, they talk only about “grandmothers” and are ready to shoot each other at any moment.
In Brother, a lot depends on which apartment you get into. Danila is mistaken, gets to the top: he is slightly surprised, but accepted without much questioning, allowed to immerse himself in a completely alien, epicurean atmosphere of friendliness and improvisation. Then a certain “radio director” confuses and falls into the lower one: the bandits deprive him of their freedom and then they are going to simply finish it off. Danila saves him by showing goodwill. True, the radio director has to trap the corpses until late at night, and to take part in an illegal burial. Well, nothing - then he, apparently, will be able to try once more to get into the marvelous UPPER apartment, where good people pour him wine and sing strange, sad, good songs...
In Zhmurki, essentially the same thing happens, except for one thing: THERE, in the world of Zhmurki, there is NO TOP APARTMENT. And Alexey Panin, playing in Zhmurki a local Danil Bagrov, does not listen to any Butusov. Obviously, because Butusov is not present in that world either.
Brother - a 1997 film; Zhmurki - of 2005. The director of both is Balabanov. And this is precisely the FEATURE between the "nineties" and "zero".
Here, for some reason, I recall a well-known formula from a kind of completely different opera, from James Bond: "Shake, but do not mix." This is the difference: the 90s is the time when the most diverse sections of the former society were shaken in the most decisive way - but not yet mixed. The permeability of the “social framework” between the layers has grown immensely, the layers themselves have found themselves in a permanent up-down movement; bandits from musicians, mountain abreks in a city tram, musicians from ordinary hard workers ... And Danila - as the embodiment of this “agitation”: he is at the same time a musician, a bandit, and “from ordinary”, and a military man - at the same time neither another, not third.
The layers were shaken - but not yet mixed. This is, in fact, the main and, perhaps, the only charm of the 90s. The tenderness that still lurked in that hectic and cruel time. After all, only that which is fragile is tender. The 90s is the time of the last Russian decadence. Willy-nilly, too, you recall the Balabanov's “About Freaks and People” - just about the FIRST Russian decadence; hell, but it turns out that he was an extremely consistent author - he has been developing one powerful topic all his life!
This is what the Brother is: the interior, the sticky, powerfully viscous, vile “htit” from below, all these bandits with cheap jokes, the nasty, looking like a half-crushed bug (yes, I’m talking about Brother ONE!) Brother in the brilliant performance of Sukhorukov ... A wonderful person is a freelance killer. And that’s all - against the background of the majestic and empty beauties of the cold, either abandoned, or captured by Peter, against the backdrop of the beautiful, but as if a little otherworldly music of Nautilus.
The fact that all this IS. The slurry goes up, the fear soaring around death sets off the music.
But in Zhmurki there is already nothing of this. Everything was MIXED. Butusov, mixed with bandits from the market, is at best Shnurov. But, most likely, nothing more than Stas Mikhailov.
It seems that when Balabanov realized that everything was completely mixed into a kind of gray jelly, and there was no more upper apartment (more precisely, everything was more or less the same in all apartments - they cut little by little, but almost "did not hurt") - he was completely bored. Kormiltsev, the author of the favorite Nautilus Bagrov, was completely bored much earlier.
Although, in fact, Russian life simply, after a short failure, returned to its usual rut. “It's boring to live in this world, it lacks comfort. The wind howls at dawn, the wolves chew the bunny". It’s also a St. Petersburg poem. Oleynikov wrote back in the 30s, shortly before the execution.