Lieutenant Kijé (film)

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Lieutenant Kijé
Directed byAleksandr Faintsimmer
Written byYury Tynyanov
StarringMikhail Yanshin
Music bySergei Prokofiev
CinematographyArkadi Koltsaty
Release date
9 December 1934
Running time
87 minutes
CountrySoviet Union

Lieutenant Kijé (Russian: Поручик Киже, translit. Poruchik Kizhe) is a 1934 Soviet comedy film directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer and promoted by Boris Gusman, based on the novella "Lieutenant Kijé" by Yury Tynyanov. The film was released in the United States as The Czar Wants to Sleep.[1] Sergei Prokofiev composed the score.[2][3]


Set in Saint Petersburg in 1800, the film satirizes the pedantic absurdities of the rule of Emperor Paul I. His obsession with rigid drill, instant obedience and martinet discipline extends not only to his soldiers but also to his courtiers and even the servants who scrub the palace corridors. A slip of the pen by an army clerk when drawing up a list of officers for promotion, leads to the creation of a Lieutenant Kijé. Once the document is signed by the Emperor, Kijé takes on an existence of his own through a series of muddles and court intrigues. The Emperor's aide cries out when engaged in amorous play with a lady in waiting, awakening the sleeping Paul. The non-existent Lieutenant Kijé is blamed, flogged in front of the assembled Imperial Guard and sent under escort to a fortress in Siberia. His lack of substantive form is explained by his being "a confidential prisoner with no shape". Reprieved by the Emperor, Kijé returns to Saint Petersburg and is rapidly promoted to colonel and then general. In absentia, he marries Princess Gagarina. At last, when the Emperor insists on a meeting with his "most faithful servant", General Kijé is reported as having died. He receives a state funeral with an empty coffin.

In an ironic twist ending, the Emperor is made to believe that his favorite officer was an embezzler after a note reading "General Kijé spent the money on meals" (deliberately left by the Emperor's aide) is found in the empty state treasury chest. The furious Paul then remembers that it was Kijé who originally disturbed his sleep. The "deceased" is demoted to the rank of private and the Emperor's aide is promoted to the rank of general, embracing Princess Gagarina after halting the ceremonial obsequies for her disgraced husband.



  1. ^ H.T.S. (December 10, 1934). "Czar Paul on Screen Again". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Jay Leyda (1960). Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film. George Allen & Unwin. pp. 306–307.
  3. ^ "Поручик Киже. Х/ф". Russia-K.

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