Russian director Karen Shakhnazarov’s new film Vanished Empire (www.mosfilm.ru) looks set to make its mark on the international festival circuit with this warm and very real story of young love set against the background of student life in the 1970’s when it seemed the USSR would last forever.
The film has already struck a romantic note with Moscow audiences who have flocked to see it since its premiere on Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day – a symbolic date according to the director.
Shakhnazarov said: “In my earlier films there was a lyrical theme, but in this film it is in the foreground. This is a history of two young people in love but I also wanted to tell about this major epoch in the history of our country, the epoch of the ‘70’s. This was when the USSR was at the peak of its power and at the same time it is when the seeds of its destruction were sown.” Shakhnazarov has obviously drawn on the experiences and memories of his own youth growing up during in the Soviet Union.
The film is set in Moscow at the beginning of the ‘70’s. The plot is a classic love triangle with two friends and a girl that both of the boys are in love with. They are all students at the same school where they win their first victories and experience their first disappointments together, never dreaming that the USSR that they are growing up in will soon disappear from maps of the world. The story is about young love and ordinary events but one can already feel the approaching upheaval in the history of the country.
Shakhnazarov said: “I think the reason that empires disintegrate is not due to the negotiations between world leaders or what happens on the front pages of the newspapers. I think the fate of empires and what changes them is born from small things that seem insignificant at the time. For me the appearance of a rock music group at my school was a much more indicative moment in the history of the disappearance of the empire called the USSR than reorganization, economic recession and the other large scale events that historians like to write about."
The script was written by playwrights from two generations – Sergei Rokotov who grew up in the USSR – and the young scriptwriter Evgeniy Nikishov. The leading roles are young newcomers Alexander Lyapin, Lydia Milyuzina and Egor Baranovsky supported by veterans Armen Dzhigarkhanyan and Vladimir Ilyin.
According to the director perhaps that’s why the film appeals to both today’s youth who see themselves in the lives of young people and this story about love, study, friends, parents, parties and getting started in life. And at the same time those who were young and lived through the ‘70’s see an evocation of the period that catches the atmosphere of a world that was about the vanish.