The Irony of Fate

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The Irony of Fate
Promotional poster
Written byEmil Braginsky
Eldar Ryazanov
Directed byEldar Ryazanov
StarringAndrey Myagkov
Barbara Brylska
Yury Yakovlev
Lyubov Dobrzhanskaya
Theme music composerMikael Tariverdiev
Country of originSoviet Union
Original languageRussian
No. of episodes2
Production
ProducerEvgeny Golynsky
Running time184 minutes
Production companyMosfilm
Original release
NetworkProgramme One
Release1 January 1976 (1976-01-01)
Related
The Irony of Fate 2

The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Russian: Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!, romanizedIroniya sud'by, ili S lyogkim parom!, literally: The Irony of Fate, or With A Light Steam!), usually shortened to The Irony of Fate, is a 1976 Soviet romantic comedy television film directed by Eldar Ryazanov and starring Andrey Myagkov, Barbara Brylska, Yury Yakovlev and Lyubov Dobrzhanskaya. The screenplay was written by Emil Braginsky and Ryazanov, loosely based on the director's 1971 play, Once on New Year's Eve (Russian: Однажды в новогоднюю ночь).

Filmed at the Mosfilm Studios, The Irony of Fate doubles as a screwball comedy and a love story tinged with sadness. It was one of the most successful Soviet television productions and remains a highly popular New Year's Eve classic in Russia and the post-Soviet states, with millions tuning in to rewatch it every New Year's Eve.

Plot[edit]

The key subplot is the drab uniformity of Brezhnev-era public architecture. This setting is explained in a humorous animated prologue, in which architects are overruled by politicians and red tape (director and animator Vitaly Peskov). As a result, the identical, functional but unimaginative multistory apartment buildings found their way into every city, town, and suburb across the Soviet Union.[1]

Following their annual tradition, a group of friends meet at a banya (a traditional public "sauna" bathhouse) in Moscow to celebrate New Year's Eve. The friends all get very drunk toasting the upcoming marriage of the central male character, Zhenya Lukashin (Andrey Myagkov) to Galya (Olga Naumenko). After the bath, one of the friends, Pavlik (Aleksandr Shirvindt), has to catch a flight to Leningrad and the entire group is going to take him to the airport. By the time the group makes it to the airport, Zhenya and Pavlik are passed out. The remaining friends cannot remember which person from their group is supposed to travel. They mistakenly get Zhenya onto the plane instead of Pavlik.

Zhenya spends the entire flight sleeping on the shoulder of his annoyed seatmate (Eldar Ryazanov in a brief comedic cameo appearance). The seatmate helps Zhenya get off the plane in Leningrad. Zhenya wakes up in the Leningrad airport, believing he is still in Moscow. He stumbles into a taxi and, still quite drunk, gives the driver his address. It turns out that in Leningrad there is an identical address that belongs to an apartment buildings of a design identical to Zhenya's building in Moscow. He takes the elevator to "his" apartment and, surprisingly, the key fits in the door (as alluded to in the introductory narration, "...building standard apartments with standard locks"). Inside, even the furniture is nearly identical to that of Zhenya's apartment, but Zhenya is too drunk to notice any minor differences.

Meanwhile, the apartment's resident, Nadya Shevelyova (Barbara Brylska), comes home and finds Zhenya asleep on her bed. To make matters worse, Nadya's fiancé, Ippolit (Yuri Yakovlev), shows up without an advance notice. Ippolit becomes furious, refuses to believe Zhenya and Nadya's explanations, and storms out. Zhenya is about to leave to get back to Moscow but circumstances make him return repeatedly. Nadya wants to get rid of Zhenya as soon as possible, but there are no flights to Moscow until the next morning. Additionally, Zhenya tries repeatedly to call Moscow and explain to Galya what has happened. Eventually, he does contact Galya, but she is furious and hangs up on his call. Ippolit also calls Nadya's apartment and hears Zhenya answer. Although Zhenya is trying to be available to receive potential calls from Galya, Ippolit also refuses to accept the truth of the situation. Nadya goes to the railway station and buys a train ticket to Moscow for Zhenya, but he abruptly rips it up and refuses to leave. It seems more and more clear that Zhenya and Nadya are the only two people who understand the night's circumstances.

Thus, Zhenya and Nadya are compelled to spend New Year's Eve together. At first, they continue to treat each other with animosity, but gradually their behavior softens, and the two fall in love. In the morning, a drunken Ippolit barges into the apartment and amazes Zhenya and Nadia with his erratic behavior (he takes a shower right in his winter coat and hat) and at the same time logical and close to the truth arguments about what happened on this New Year's Eve. Ippolit, wet "with tears", leaves Nadia for good. The duo feel that everything that has happened to them was a delusion, and they make the difficult decision to part. With a heavy heart, Zhenya returns to Moscow. Meanwhile, Nadya reconsiders everything and, deciding that she might have let her chance at happiness slip away, takes a plane to Moscow to find Zhenya. She has no difficulty finding him as their addresses are the same, and her key matches his lock.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

Ирония судьбы или С лёгким паром!
Soundtrack album by
Released2009 (2009)
Length41:03
LabelBomba Music [ru]
ProducerVera Tariverdieva

After reading the script, composer Mikael Tariverdiev was puzzled by its genre diversity. As a result, he defined it for himself as a Christmas fairy tale, and for musical accompaniment he chose eight romances - "about love, about happiness, about jealousy, about kindness, about the desire to be understood" - which at first sound like a sharp counterpoint to what is happening on the screen, but then "scissors between the sound and the picture converged".[2]

The soundtrack for The Irony of Fate was partly released on Mikael Tariverdiev's LP in 1976 by Melodiya.[3] A full soundtrack was released in 2009 by Bomba Music (Russia)[4] and in 2016 by Earth (UK).[5]

Male vocals are mostly performed by Sergey Nikitin, female vocals — by Alla Pugacheva. Initially, Anna German was preparing to perform songs for the film, but the recording did not take place — the funds for the invitation of a foreign singer were not included in the estimate.[6]

All music is composed by Mikael Tariverdiev

No.TitleLyricsLength
1."Overture (Uvertura)" (instrumental) 2:43
2."What Is Happening to Me? (So Mnoyu Vot Chto Proishodit)"Y. Yevtushenko2:28
3."Hope (Nadezhda)" (instrumental) 4:24
4."Expectation of the New Year (V Ozhidanii Novogo Goda)" (instrumental) 1:14
5."No One's Home (Nikogo Ne Budet V Dome)"B. Pasternak2:17
6."Snow Over Leningrad (Sneg Nad Leningradom)" (instrumental) 2:45
7."Along My Street For Many Years (Po Ulitse Moei Kotoriy God)"B. Akhmadulina2:48
8."The Third Stroitelnaya Street (Na Tretiey Ulitze Stroiteley)" (instrumental) 1:15
9."On Tikhoretskaya (Na Tihoretskuyu Sostav Otpravitsya)"M. L'vovsky1:29
10."Happy New Year (S Novym Godom!)" (instrumental) 2:46
11."I Like (Mne Nravitsya)"M. Tsvetaeva1:35
12."Aria by Moscow Guest (Arya Moskovskogo Gostya)"A. Aronov1:53
13."The Last Waltz (Posledniy Vals)" (instrumental) 1:45
14."I Asked the Mirror (Hochu U Zerkala Sprosit)"M. Tsvetaeva1:36
15."I Asked the Ash Tree (Ya Sprosil U Yasenia)"V. Kirshon3:08
16."Do Not Leave Your Lover (S Lyubimimi Ne Rasstavaytes)"A. Kochetov4:26
17."Melody (Melodia)" (instrumental) 4:33
Total length:41:03

Reception[edit]

The two consecutive episodes of The Irony of Fate were originally broadcast by the Soviet central television channel, Programme One,[7] on 1 January 1976, at 18:00.[8] The film was a resounding success with audiences: author Fedor Razzakov recalled that "virtually the entire country watched the show";[9] the number of viewers was estimated to have been about 100 million.[10] In response to popular demand, the feature had a first re-run on 7 February. By 1978, after several further broadcasts of the picture, the accumulated number of viewers for all of the showings including the first was estimated at 250 million.[9] A shortened 155 minute version was released to cinemas on August 16, 1976;[11] which sold 7 million tickets.[12] The readers of Sovetskii Ekran, the official publication of the State Committee for Cinematography, voted The Irony of Fate as the best film of 1976, and chose Andrey Myagkov as the best actor of the year.[13] In 1977, Ryazanov, Braginsky, cinematographer Vladimir Nakhabtsev, composer Mikael Tariverdiev and actors Barbara Brylska and Myagkov were all awarded the USSR State Prize in recognition of their participation in making the film.[11]

George Faraday commented that while it was basically a happy ending romantic comedy, The Irony of Fate had a "socially critical undertone." It could be interpreted as an "explicit commentary... On the soulless uniformity of the Soviet urban landscape".[14] Simultaneously, however, critics accused the director of creating an escapist film which allowed the Soviet audience to turn away from the "unattractive features" of their country's reality. In a 1977 issue of Sovetskii Ekran, Ryazanov responded that "to reassure, to encourage the viewer – it is not such a sin." He rejected the claims his pictures were meant to please state authorities, stating their optimistic nature was "spontaneous" rather than "forced".[15]

In his book "Nepoladki v russkom dome"(Russian: Неполадки в русском доме, lit.'Problems in the Russian House') Sergey Kara-Murza posted a critical article in which he reproached Ryazanov for the "anti-Sovietism" nature of his heroes, as well as for the formation and cultivation of images of "internal emigrants" by him. In his opinion, the heroes of the film are "typical intelligents of those years with social traits close to this circle," who, however, are well over thirty but they do not have a family and children, while having energetic mothers [almost implausible for a post-war generation] who care about their comfort and material well-being. The subtle signs of the "far-fetched elitism, aristocracy" of the film's characters were picked up and assimilated by a very significant part of the intelligentsia, who eventually "enthusiastically accepted Perestroika and applauded Sakharov".[16]

In 2019, archdeacon Vladimir Vasilik analyzed several themes of the film - orphanhood and fatherlessness of the Soviet intelligentsia of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era, love and betrayal, drunkenness, blizzard as an image of Fate and a metaphor of infernal fun for the New Year, - and described the film as "a monument to the era of late socialism with all its greatness and tragedy," which at the same time "carries the reflection of the love fading on earth from people who have experienced God-abandonment." Longing for God is transmitted primarily "in songs and poems that serve as a chorus in ancient tragedy."[17]

Legacy[edit]

The film is widely regarded as a classic piece of Russian popular culture and is traditionally broadcast in Russia and almost all former Soviet republics every New Year's Eve (Andrew Horton and Michael Brashinsky likened its status to that held by Frank Capra's 1946 It's a Wonderful Life in the United States as a holiday staple).[18] The soundtrack of the film was also highly appreciated and places among the most famous and recognizable music of an era in post-Soviet countries.[19] This tradition was discontinued in Ukraine in 2015 when licence holder STB decided not to broadcast the movie after the actress Valentina Talyzina was banned from entering Ukraine for "statements contradicting the interests of our national security".[20][21]

In 2006, The New Year's Eve musical film "The First Fast", shown on Channel One, included a mini-sequel to "The Irony of Fate". Ippolit and Nadia meet after 30 years. During the heartful conversation, it turns out that Zhenya and Nadia broke up quite quickly and Ippolit is still not married. To Nadia's question, "Why?" he answers: "I've been waiting for you. And I keep waiting." Nadia doesn't know what to answer and whispers "Don't be sad". Ippolit remains alone. Gleb Kolondo (Vatnikstan) considered: "It seemed to be better than Bekmambetov's [film] two years later".[22].

Sequel[edit]

A sequel, The Irony of Fate 2, was released in December 2007, becoming a box office hit and grossing over $55 million to a production budget of $5 million.

The film starred Konstantin Khabensky and Elizaveta Boyarskaya as the grown-up children of Lukashin and Sheveleva who have managed to get into the same situation as their parents did.

Andrey Myagkov, although he took part in the filming, eventually expressed his regret and dissatisfaction with the final result.[23]

Remakes[edit]

In 2015, an Indian remake of the film called I Love NY was released, starring actors Sunny Deol and Kangana Ranaut. The film performed poorly critically and was a box office flop.

In 2022, an American remake of the film titled About Fate was released. It was directed by Maryus Vaysberg and starred Emma Roberts and Thomas Mann in the lead roles.[24]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Frederick Edwin Ian Hamilton, Kaliopa Dimitrovska Andrews, Nataša Pichler-Milanović Transformation Of Cities In Central And Eastern Europe 2005 Page 159 "... industry started and by the early 1960s new housing districts built in five-storey blocks of modern industrialized panel construction had been established all around the socialist countries (e.g. in Moscow, popularly known as "Kruschevki")."
  2. ^ Ирония судьбы или С лёгким паром! BoMB033-907 LP at Discogs
  3. ^ Музыка из кинофильмов «Ольга Сергеевна», «Ирония судьбы» at Discogs (list of releases)
  4. ^ Ирония судьбы или С лёгким паром! at Discogs
  5. ^ Tariverdiev – The Irony Of Fate (Original Score) at Discogs
  6. ^ Анна Герман: почему она любила высоких мужчин? Archived 3 July 2023 at the Wayback Machine. In Russian
  7. ^ Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром! [The Irony of Fate] (in Russian). vokrug.tv.ru. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  8. ^ Krigel, Mikhailo; Danilenko, Larissa (2012). почти рождественская История [Almost A Christmas Tale] (PDF) (in Russian). Vidavichny Dim UMH. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2012. p. 7.
  9. ^ a b Razzakov, Fedor (2008). Gibelʹ sovetskogo kino. Exmo. ISBN 9785699268467. p. 133.
  10. ^ Krigel, Danilenko. p. 10.
  11. ^ a b Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром! [The Irony of Fate] (in Russian). russiancinema.ru. Archived from the original on 27 September 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  12. ^ Alexeev, Alexey (14 January 2008). Судьба иронизирует дважды [A Double Irony of Fate] (in Russian). Kommersant. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  13. ^ Победители конкурса журнала "Советский экран" [Sovetskii Ekran Competition Winners] (in Russian). akter.kulichki.com. October 1983. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  14. ^ Faraday, George (2000). Revolt of the Filmmakers: The Struggle for Artistic Autonomy and the Fall of the Soviet Film Industry. Penn State Press. ISBN 9780271019833. pp. 98–99.
  15. ^ Lawton, Anna (1992). Kinoglasnost: Soviet Cinema in Our Time. CUP. ISBN 9780521388146. pp. 14–15.
  16. ^ Кара-Мурза С. Г., Телегин С. А. Неполадки в русском доме Archived 2021-12-23 at the Wayback Machine. — М.: Алгоритм. — Серия «Горячая линия». — 443 с. — 3000 экз. — ISBN 5-699-09616-7. In Russian
  17. ^ О ДУХОВНОМ СОДЕРЖАНИИ ФИЛЬМА «ИРОНИЯ СУДЬБЫ, ИЛИ С ЛЕГКИМ ПАРОМ!». Протодиакон Владимир Василик Archived 5 December 2023 at the Wayback Machine. In Russian
  18. ^ Horton, Andrew; Brashinsky, Michael (1992). The Zero Hour: Glasnost and Soviet Cinema in Transition. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691019208. p. 171.
  19. ^ «Звуковые фильмы» Микаэла Таривердиева Archived 23 January 2023 at the Wayback Machine. In Russian
  20. ^ SBU issues entry ban against 140 Russian artists Archived 4 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine, UNIAN (5 November 2016)
    Ukraine’s State Security Service bans 140 Russian cultural figures from entering country Archived 8 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine, TASS news agency (5 November 2016)
  21. ^ (in Ukrainian) "The Irony..." on New Year's Eve will not be shown, although no ban Archived 6 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Ukr.Media (29 December 2015)
  22. ^ Убрать стеночку — и в прошлое. «Старые песни о главном» как модель рая постсоветской России Archived 25 December 2023 at the Wayback Machine. In Russian
  23. ^ ""Не одобряю": Андрей Мягков против "Иронии судьбы"". Archived from the original on 23 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2021.. In Russian
  24. ^ Vaysberg, Marius (8 September 2022), About Fate (Comedy, Romance), Aldamisa Entertainment, American International Pictures (AIP), Contentious Media, archived from the original on 30 December 2022, retrieved 29 December 2022

External links[edit]