Brother (1997 film)
|Directed by||Aleksei Balabanov|
|Produced by||Sergei Selyanov|
|Written by||Aleksei Balabanov|
|Starring||Sergei Bodrov, Jr.
|Music by||Vyacheslav Butusov|
STW Film Co.
|Distributed by||Kino International Corp.|
|May 17, 1997
Brother (Russian: Брат, translit. Brat) is a 1997 Russian crime film directed by Aleksei Balabanov and starring Sergei Bodrov Jr. It is the first film to feature Danila Bagrov, the iconic protagonist of the film and its sequel, Brother 2, released in 2000. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. After its release on VHS in June 1997, Brother quickly became one of the few commercially successful Russian films released in the 1990s.
The film begins in the autumn of 1996, after the protagonist, Danila Bagrov (Sergei Bodrov Jr.) returns to his small hometown following his demobilisation from the Russian Army after the First Chechen War. Before he reaches home, he ends up in a fight with security guards, after he accidentally walks onto the set of a music video for the band Nautilus Pompilius. The local police release him, on the condition that he will find work within the week. His mother insists that he travels to St. Petersburg to seek out his successful older brother Viktor, whom his mother is confident will help him make a living.
Danila travels to the city, but his first attempts to make contact with Viktor are unsuccessful. Instead, he travels around the city and befriends several people from a very wide urban spectrum: Kat (Mariya Zhukova), an energetic drug addict and party-girl, and "German" Hoffman (Yury Kuznetsov), a kind, homeless man whom Danila rescues from a thug.
Unbeknown to their mother, Viktor (Viktor Sukhorukov) is an accomplished hitman who goes under the street name "Tatar", but is growing too independent and is starting to irritate his mob boss "Roundhead" (Sergei Murzin). His latest target is "Chechen", a Chechen mafia boss who was recently released from prison and runs an open-air market. Roundhead, who is unhappy with the amount of money that Viktor demanded for the hit, orders his thugs to secretly watch him.
Viktor thus welcomes Danila, when they finally meet up. To avoid exposure, Viktor passes his assignment to his brother, gives him money to settle into the city, and then lies to him that the Chechen has been extorting from him, and asks Danila to perform the hit. Although Danila claims that his army service was spent at the headquarters as a clerk, he carries out the task professionally. First he asks German to find him a room in a communal flat in the city centre (much to the dismay of the old alcoholic landlord who threatens to shoot German with his vintage hunting rifle, as revenge for World War II). He then constructs a makeshift silencer out of a plastic soda bottle and oil filter, and a decoy firecracker out of a matchbox. Finally he follows Chechen and, despite the latter's security, takes him out without being spotted. As Danila makes his exit, Roundhead's thugs spot him and chase him. Making his escape, Danila jumps into a freight tram and, despite being wounded in the abdomen, manages to kill one of the pursuing thugs.
The tram driver, a woman named Sveta (Svetlana Pismichenko), helps Danila escape. Later, despite her marriage to an abusive husband, the two begin an affair. After Danila recovers, he begins to enjoy St. Petersburg, gives his provincial image a makeover that includes buying some new clothing, goes to a concert with Sveta to see his favourite band, Nautilus Pompilius, and manages to scare her husband away from her. He meets up with Kat to go to a nightclub and then smokes cannabis in an afterparty, where he taunts a French tourist whom he mistakes for an American. The night ends with him sleeping with Kat.
Roundhead's loss of a thug, and the fact that Tatar employed Danila to carry out the hit, aggravates him even more. He decides to draw him into a combined raid. Once again Viktor, suspecting a trap, passes the job to Danila. The two thugs raid the apartment, but their main target is away. While they wait, in an apartment on the floor above, a birthday party is taking place with several well known Russian rock stars. A young radio director, Stepan (Andrey Fedortsov) mistakes the raided flat for the party flat and is almost killed by the thugs, who take him as a hostage. Vyacheslav Butusov, the lead singer of Nautilus Pompilius, makes the same mistake, but Danila instead follows Butusov above and relaxes in the friendly music atmosphere. Realising the balance between right and wrong, he comes downstairs, and finds that the thugs have just killed their main target, and are about to do the same with Stepan. Instead, Danila kills both thugs. Danila and Stepan drag the corpses to the Smolensky Lutheran Cemetery, where German and his friends dwell. Once again, German helps Danila by disposing of the bodies.
Roundhead is furious upon finding out what happened. Instead of going after Tatar, he decides to track Danila and intercepts Sveta's tram. They later raid her apartment, where his men beat and rape her, and learn his phone number, as well as his address. A henchman nicknamed "Mole" ambushes Danila near his apartment building, but the bullet hits Danila's music player, giving him a chance to fire back and kill Mole. Realising it is not safe to stay at home, he travels to Sveta's house and is shocked at her state. Initially thinking it was her husband, he then learns who was responsible and realises that the only way they could have tracked Sveta was when he returned a phone call from her home telephone to his brother.
At the same time, Roundhead raids Viktor's apartment and forces him to call Danila at gunpoint, so that he comes to pick up his payment. Realising the depth of the situation, Danila decides to end it all at once. He goes back to the communal room that he was renting, buys the rifle from the old man, converts it into a sawed-off shotgun, and replaces the duck-hunting pellets with nailheads. At Viktor's apartment, he makes easy work of Roundhead and two of his henchmen, and tells the surviving one to warn the rest of the gang that anyone who hurts his brother will be killed. In reply, the thug tells him that it was Viktor who turned him in.
Danila forgives his brother, gives him some of the money from Roundhead's suitcase (keeping the rest for himself) and then tells him to return home. Danila decides to go to Moscow, as St. Petersburg, according to Viktor, "is a pretty town, but provincial nonetheless". Once again he visits Sveta, intending to take her with him, but her husband has returned and is beating her. Seeing Danila, he challenges him to a fight, but before he can come closer, Danila fires a shot into his thigh. Sveta rushes to her husband and begins to treat his wound. Danila urges her to come with him, but she tells him to get out and never come back. He leaves her a Nautilus Pompilius CD. He then meets up with German, converses with him about the influence of the city on its residents, saying that everyone is weak here, to which German replies that the city is an evil that drains the strength from those who enter it. Before he leaves the city, he finds Kat to say goodbye. She is indifferent to his departure, but he gives her money to go to a concert.
The last scene of the film shows Danila walking out of a snow-covered forest. He hitches a ride to Moscow on a passing Kamaz truck. As he chats up with the driver, the final shot is of the winter road stretching far into the wilderness.
- Sergei Bodrov Jr. – Danila Bagrov
- Viktor Sukhorukov – Viktor Bagrov
- Svetlana Pismichenko – Sveta
- Mariya Zhukova– Kat
- Yuri Kuznetsov – 'German' Hoffman
- Irina Rakshina - Zinka
- Sergei Murzin – Roundhead
- Andrey Fyodortsov – Stepan
The film also features brief appearances from several Russian rock musicians, including:
- Vyacheslav Butusov, as well as other members of Nautilus Pompilius
- Sergey Chigrakov
- Nastya Poleva
- Band members of Aquarium
- Band members of Kolibri
- Aleksei Balabanov – director, screenwriter
- Sergei Astakhov – camera operator
- Vladimir Kartashov - production designer
- Nadezhda Vasilyeva – costumer
- Vyacheslav Butusov – composer
- Sergei Selyanov – producer
The entire filming process was done within 31 days, on a small budget of $10,000. Most of the actors worked for little pay. As the costumer, Nadezhda Vasilyeva, could barely afford any clothing for the characters, the actors wore their own clothes for most of the film, the rest being bought second-hand, such as Danila's famous sweater that he wears through most of the film, which was bought for just 35 rubles. Most of the film was filmed in St. Petersburg, on Vasilyevsky Island. The first six minutes of the film were set in Danila's hometown, which was filmed in Priozersk, with the scene where Danila walks onto a film set being set outside the walls of Korela Fortress. Svetlana Pismichenko, for her role as Sveta the tram driver, learned how to operate a tram. During the filming of the scene where Sveta's husband, Pavel, is shot in the leg by Danila, the actor, Vladimir Yermilov, was actually wounded in the leg due to an accident with the pyrotechnics. Before the filming of the last scene, where Danila hitchhikes on a truck, the crew realized that none of the actors know how to operate a truck. Because of this, Sergei Astakhov, the film's camera operator, played the brief role as the driver of the truck. The film was released on VHS in June 1997 and premiered on television on 12 December, 1997.
- 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.
- MacKay, John. "Balabanov's BROTHER (1997): Cinema as salvage operation." 
- "Festival de Cannes: Traveling Companion". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
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