Brother (1997 film)

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Brother
Брат
BrotherPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAleksei Balabanov
Produced bySergei Selyanov
Written byAleksei Balabanov
StarringSergei Bodrov, Jr.
Viktor Sukhorukov
Yury Kuznetsov
Vyacheslav Butusov
Music byVyacheslav Butusov
Production
company
CTB Film Company
Distributed byKino International Corp.
Release date
17 May 1997
(Cannes)
Running time
95 minutes
Country Russia
LanguageRussian
Budget$10,000–$20,000[citation needed]

Brother (Russian: Брат, translit. Brat) is a 1997 Russian neo-noir crime drama film written and directed by Aleksei Balabanov. The film stars Sergei Bodrov Jr. as Danila Bagrov, a young ex-army conscript who becomes embroiled with the Saint Petersburg mob through his criminal older brother. It appeared in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

After its release on VHS in June 1997, Brother unexpectedly became one of the most commercially successful Russian films of the 1990s and quickly rose to cult film status throughout Russia. Due to the film's popularity and fan demand, a sequel, Brother 2, was released in 2000.

Plot[edit]

In the autumn of 1997, Danila Bagrov returns to his small hometown of Priozersk following his demobilization from the Russian Army after the First Chechen War. On his way home, he gets into a fight with security guards after accidentally walking onto the set of a music video for the band Nautilus Pompilius. He is arrested and brought to the local militsiya precinct. The officer in charge releases Danila on the condition that he will find another job within a week. After Danila arrives home his mother, very concerned for Danila, insists that he go to Saint Petersburg to meet up with his successful older brother Viktor and ask for his help.

Danila travels to Saint Petersburg, but his attempts to make contact with Viktor are unsuccessful. Instead, he wanders around the city. He befriends Kat, an energetic drug addict, and "The German" Hoffman, a homeless street vendor whom Danila helps after a thug attempts to extort him.

Unbeknown to their mother, Viktor is an accomplished hitman who goes by the street name "The Tatar" but is growing too independent and is starting to irritate his mob boss, "Roundhead." His latest target is "The Chechen," a Chechen mafia boss who was recently released from prison and now runs a market. Roundhead, who is unhappy with the amount of money that Viktor demanded for the hit, orders his thugs to watch him in secret.

Danila eventually manages to find Viktor in his apartment. 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. Danila asks the German to find him a room in a communal flat in the city center. He then makes a makeshift silencer out of a plastic soda bottle and an oil filter, as well as a decoy firecracker out of a matchbox. Finally, he follows the 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, helps Danila escape. Danila later recovers and meets up with Sveta. Despite Sveta being married, the two begin an affair. With the money given to him by Viktor after the hit, he begins to enjoy Saint Petersburg, gives his provincial image a makeover, goes to a concert with Sveta, and manages to scare away her husband. He meets up with Kat to go to a nightclub and then smokes cannabis in an afterparty. The night ends with him sleeping with Kat.

Meanwhile, Roundhead is angry about losing one of his men and the fact that Viktor used someone else to carry out the hit. 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 party is taking place with several well-known Russian rock musicians. A young radio director, Stepan mistakes the raided flat for the party flat and is almost killed by the thugs, who take him captive. Vyacheslav Butusov, the lead singer of Nautilus Pompilius, makes the same mistake, but Danila instead follows Butusov to the party above and relaxes in the friendly musical atmosphere. After spending time at the party, he comes back downstairs and finds that the thugs have just killed their primary 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 the German helps Danila dispose of the bodies.

Roundhead is furious upon finding out what happened. Instead of going after Viktor, 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 Danila manages to kill Mole. Realizing that staying home is unsafe, he travels to Sveta's house and is shocked at her state. He learns that Roundhead was responsible and realizes 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. Realizing the depth of the situation, Danila goes back to the communal room that he was renting, buys a shotgun from his landlord, converts it into a sawed-off shotgun, and replaces the duck-hunting pellets with nailheads. At Viktor's apartment, he takes out Roundhead and two of his henchmen and tells the surviving thug to warn the rest of the gang that he will kill anyone who hurts his brother. In reply, the thug tells him that it was Viktor who turned him in (as Danila already suspected).

Danila forgives his brother, gives him some of the money from Roundhead's suitcase, and then tells him to return home and to work for the militsiya. Danila decides to go to Moscow. He visits Sveta, intending to take her with him, but her husband has returned and is beating her, demanding to know where Danila is. Seeing Danila, he challenges him to a fight, but before he can come closer, Danila fires a shot into his leg. Sveta rushes to her husband and begins to treat his wound. Danila urges her to leave with him, but she tells him to get out and never come back. He then meets up with the German, converses with him about the influence of the city on its residents, saying that everyone is weak here, to which the German replies that the city is an evil force that drains the strength from those who enter it. Danila offers him money, but the German declines, saying "What's good for the Russian is death for the German." Before he leaves the city, he finds Kat to say goodbye. She is indifferent to his departure, but he gives her money nonetheless.

The last scene of the film shows Danila walking out of a snow-covered forest. He hitches a ride to Moscow on a passing truck. As he chats with the driver, the final shot is of the winter road stretching far into the wilderness.

Cast[edit]

The film also features brief appearances from several Russian rock musicians:

Production crew[edit]

Production[edit]

The entire filming process took place within 31 days, on a small budget of approximately $10,000. The actors worked for little to no pay and, due to the low budget, wore their own clothes on set throughout most of the film. Some clothing was bought second-hand at flea markets, such as Danila's sweater that he wears throughout most of the film. Most of the film was shot in Saint Petersburg on Vasilyevsky Island; the first six minutes of the film, set in Danila's hometown of Priozersk, were shot on location, with the scene where Danila walks onto a film set taking place outside the walls of Korela Fortress.

Svetlana Pismichenko learned how to operate a tram for her role as Sveta. During the filming of the scene where Sveta's husband is shot in the leg by Danila, the actor playing him (Vladimir Ermilov) really was 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 knew how to operate a truck. Because of this, Sergei Astakhov, the film's camera operator, played a brief role as the truck driver.

The film was released on VHS in June 1997 and premiered on television on 12 December 1997.

Sequel[edit]

Following the film's success, Alexey Balabanov initially planned on making a Brother trilogy: the second instalment was to take place in Moscow and the third in America. During the writing phase, however, he abandoned this idea and combined the two parts into a single sequel instead.[2] Brother 2 is notable for having a significantly higher budget, placing more emphasis on action sequences, and being set in Moscow and Chicago.

Music[edit]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleArtist(s)Length
1."During the rain (Во время дождя)"Nautilus Pompilius3:49
2."Wings (Крылья)"Nautilus Pompilius3:48
3."Gentle vampire (Нежный вампир)"Nautilus Pompilius3:53
4."Three tsars (Три царя)"Nautilus Pompilius4:25
5."Air (Воздух)"Nautilus Pompilius5:16
6."People on the hill (Люди на холме)"Nautilus Pompilius5:09
7."Flying Frigate (Летучий фрегат)"Anastasia Poleva3:21
8."Mother of the Gods (Матерь богов)"Nautilus Pompilius4:37
9."Clap Clap (Хлоп-хлоп)"Nautilus Pompilius4:00
10."For nothing (Даром)"Anastasia Poleva3:51
11."Black birds (Чёрные птицы)"Nautilus Pompilius3:26
12."The beast (Зверь)"Nautilus Pompilius6:59
13."People on the hill (demo) (Люди на холме (демо))"Nautilus Pompilius3:20

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Brother has an approval rating of 100% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 5 reviews, and an average rating of 7.63/10.[3]

Legacy[edit]

In the 2018 music video for her song "90", the Russian singer-songwriter Monetochka reenacts scenes from Brother.[4]

Literature[edit]

  • MacKay, John. Balabanov's Brother (1997): Cinema as salvage operation.
  • Österberg, Ira (2018). What Is That Song? Aleksej Balabanov's Brother and Rock as Film Music in Russian Cinema (Ph.D. thesis). University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-4124-8.
  • Weinhold, Florian (2013). Path of Blood: The Post-Soviet Gangster, His Mistress and Their Others in Aleksei Balabanov's Genre Films, pp. 39–65. Reaverlands Books, North Charleston, SC.

References[edit]

External links[edit]