The Irony of Fate
|The Irony of Fate|
|Written by||Emil Braginsky|
|Directed by||Eldar Ryazanov|
|Theme music composer||Mikael Tariverdiev|
|Country of origin||Soviet Union|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Running time||184 minutes|
|Original network||Programme One|
|Original release||1 January 1976|
|Followed by||The Irony of Fate 2|
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Russian: Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!, literally: The Irony of Fate, or With A Light Steam; trans. Ironiya sudby, ili S lyogkim parom!), 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.
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.
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, they 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.
- Andrey Myagkov as Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Lukashin, "Zhenya" (vocals by Sergey Nikitin)
- Barbara Brylska as Nadezhda Vasilyevna Shevelyova, "Nadya" (voiced by Valentina Talyzina, vocals by Alla Pugacheva)
- Yury Yakovlev as Ippolit Georgievich, Nadya's fiancé
- Lyubov Dobrzhanskaya as Marina Dmitriyevna, Zhenya's mother
- Olga Naumenko as Galya, Zhenya's fiancée
- Aleksandr Shirvindt as Pavlik, Zhenya's best friend/author's text
- Georgi Burkov as Misha, Zhenya's friend
- Valentina Talyzina as Valya, Nadya's friend
- Liya Akhedzhakova as Tanya, Nadya's friend
- Aleksandr Belyavsky as Sasha, Zhenya's friend
- Gotlib Roninson as man at the airport
- Eldar Ryazanov as Zhenya's fellow passenger on board
- Lyubov Sokolova as Olga Nikolayevna, Nadya's mother
The two consecutive episodes of The Irony of Fate were originally broadcast by the Soviet central television channel, Programme One, on 1 January 1976, at 18:00. The film was a resounding success with audiences: author Fedor Razzakov recalled that "virtually the entire country watched the show"; the number of viewers was estimated to have been about 100 million. 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. A shortened 155 minute version was released to cinemas on August 16, 1976; which sold 7 million tickets. 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. 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.
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". 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. 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".
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). 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".
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.
- 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")."
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Ukraine’s State Security Service bans 140 Russian cultural figures from entering country, TASS news agency (5 November 2016)
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