Brother (1997 film)
|Directed by||Aleksei Balabanov|
|Produced by||Sergei Selyanov|
|Written by||Aleksei Balabanov|
|Starring||Sergei Bodrov, Jr.
|Distributed by||Kino International Corp.|
|Release date(s)||May 17, 1997
|Running time||99 minutes|
Brother (Russian: Брат, translit. Brat) is a 1997 Russian crime film directed by Aleksei Balabanov and starring Sergei Bodrov, Jr. The sequel Brother 2 was released in 2000. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
After being released from the Russian Army due to demobilisation, Danila Bagrov (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) returns to his hometown. Walking along the street, he hears a song that he likes, as he walks over to ask who is singing, he inadvertently interrupts filming for a music video for the band Nautilus Pompilius and ends up fighting with the private guards hired for the set. He is taken to the local police precinct. After an interview with the local lieutenant, he is allowed to go, but on the condition that he will find employment within one week.
At his mother's insistence, Danila travels to St. Petersburg to meet up with his successful older brother, Viktor (Viktor Sukhorukov). Upon arriving, Danila does not find his older brother home. As he wanders around St. Petersburg, he saves a homeless street vendor named Hoffman (Yury Kuznetsov), a Russian-born German, from a small-time hood trying to shake him down. Danila takes away the hood's gun and makes friends with Hoffman, who goes by the street name of Nemets (meaning "German" in Russian). Subsequently, he meets a local party girl named Kat. Finally, he meets up with his brother. It turns out that, unbeknownst to their mother, Viktor is actually a hired assassin who goes under the street name Tatarin. He just received an order from a local mob boss named Krugly for a hit on Chechen, another mob boss who was recently released from prison and who runs the open-air market. It turns out that Krugly is unhappy with the amount of money that Viktor asked for the hit and he orders his people to secretly watch Viktor.
In the meantime, Nemets refers Danila to a veteran who has a room for rent in his apartment. After getting his own place, Danila meets up with Viktor again. His older brother is sensing that something is not right with the hit ordered by Krugly and decides to pass it on to Danila. Viktor lies to Danila, saying that Chechen has been extorting him, and asks Danila to perform the hit. Danila agrees and, after tailing Chechen, successfully assassinates him and gets away from his bodyguards. However, as he makes his escape, Danila gets surprised by Krugly's henchmen who end up wounding him. He is barely able to escape by climbing into a freight tram. The tram driver, a woman named Sveta, takes pity on Danila and helps him escape. Danila makes his way back to Nemets, who helps him dress the wound and takes care of him as he heals.
When he recovers, Danila seeks out Sveta, the tram driver who helped him. Although Sveta is married, they start an affair. Sveta tells Danila that her husband regularly abuses her. The two of them go to a Nautilus Pompilius concert, where they run into Kat, who gives Danila her number. The next day, Danila comes over to Sveta's apartment. She is out, so he decides to wait for her inside. Instead, it is Sveta's husband who shows up. Danila intimidates him, telling him to stay away from Sveta and warning him that if he sees him again, he will kill him. Then, Danila leaves and decides to call Kat, who meets up with him and brings him to a night club. After, they go to a private apartment, where they get high. Later in the night, Kat offers to sleep with Danila in return for his paying for drinks and drugs earlier in the night.
The next morning, Danila's mobile phone rings. It's Viktor. He wants Danila to take on one more hit. For this one, Danila unknowingly meets up with some of Krugly's henchmen, who are supposed to identify the intended victim. Together, they break into the intended victim's apartment and lie in wait. Meanwhile, in the apartment one floor above, members of the St. Petersburg artistic scene are having a birthday party. One of the party guests, a film director named Stepan, mistakes the floor and comes into the apartment where Danila and Krugly's henchmen are lying in wait. Given that he is a witness, the henchmen take Stepan hostage inside the apartment. Then, Vyacheslav Butusov (playing himself), lead singer for Nautilus Pompilius, also mistakenly knocks on the door of the wrong apartment. Danila recognizes him and decides to follow him upstairs to the apartment where the party is taking place. He sees several well known Russian rock stars. He spends a bit of time hanging out in the apartment and enjoying the party atmosphere. After, he returns downstairs and decides to save Stepan, whom Krugly's henchmen were planning on killing. They have an argument and Danila kills the henchmen instead.
Krugly becomes incensed upon finding out what happened. He tells his people to hunt down Danila. A henchman nicknamed Krot ambushes Danila near his apartment building, but luckily for Danila, the bullet hits his music player, giving him a chance to fire back and kill Krot. Meanwhile, Krugly finds Sveta. His henchmen beat and rape her, then Krugly interrogates her. Based on what she tells him, Krugly realizes that Danila loves Viktor, so he has his people break into Viktor's apartment and take him hostage. He tells Viktor that unless he brings them Danila and returns the money, they will kill him. Viktor calls Danila and lies to him, saying that he should come over to pick up his payment for the hits. However, Danila is able to figure out that Viktor is being controlled. Danila buys a shotgun from his landlord and saws off the barrel. He then brings the sawed off shotgun to Viktor's apartment and coldly picks off Krugly and his men. Viktor is scared that Danila will kill him as well as payback for trying to lure Danila into a trap. Danila tells him not to worry, saying that he loves Viktor and forgives him. He then says that Viktor has become weak under the influence of the big city and the easy money.
Danila takes the payment for the hired killings, says farewell to his brother, and decides to leave St. Petersburg. He visits Sveta, intending to take her with him, but finds her with her husband, who is in the middle of beating her. Danila shoots the husband in the leg. Sveta rushes to comfort her husband and screams at Danila to leave. Danila leaves, but first leaves behind some money for the husband's medical care and his remaining Nautilus Pompilius CDs. Danila then meets up with Nemets, converses with him about the influence of the city on its residents, and then says good-bye. Finally, he meets up with Kat at a McDonald's. She is completely indifferent about his leaving, showing that to her, he is just another john with whom she traded sex for money.
The last scene of the film shows Danila walking out of a snow-covered forest and hitching a ride in a passing truck. He chats up the driver, then turns on the car radio. The final shot is of the winter road stretching from St. Petersburg to Moscow.
- Sergei Bodrov Jr. – Danila Bagrov
- Viktor Sukhorukov – Danila's Brother Victor Bagrov
- Svetlana Pismichenko – Sveta
- Yuri Kuznetsov – Hofman (The German)
- Mariya Zhukova – Kat
- Vyacheslav Butusov – Himself
- Irina Rakshina – Zinka
- Sergei Murzin – Kruglyj (The Round)
- Anatoli Zhuravlyov – Nervous Bandit
- Igor Shibanov – Militiaman
- Andrey Fyodortsov – Styopa
- Sergei Debizhev – Himself
- Aleksei Balabanov – director, screenwriter
- Sergei Selyanov – producer
- Sergei Astakhov – cinematorapher
- Vyacheslav Butusov – composer
- Vladimir Kartashov – production designer
- Nadezhda Vasilyeva – costumer
Impact of the film
The film became an instant hit, and raised the fortunes of both Sergey Bodrov and director Aleksei Balabanov. The story's depiction revolves around the problems and attitudes of the 1990s Russia: crime, poverty (for example, as with the homeless Nemets), the disaffection of the Russian youth (as with the character Kat), and failing families (as with Sveta and her abusive husband) brought about in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, which took place six years prior. Yet it exposes that there is still courage and good in the face of Danila, who is portrayed as having an acute sense of right and wrong, and appears to follow some semblance of a moral code. As such it carries a powerful psychological message to the Russian audience that even in such gloomy times there is still hope.
- Florian Weinhold (2013), Path of Blood: The Post-Soviet Gangster, His Mistress and Their Others in Aleksei Balabanov's Genre Films, Reaverlands Books: North Charleston, SC: pp. 39–65.
- "Festival de Cannes: Traveling Companion". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
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