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The Theme

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The Theme
Directed byGleb Panfilov
Written byAleksandr Chervinsky
Gleb Panfilov
StarringMikhail Ulyanov
Inna Churikova
Stanislav Lyubshin
Yevgeni Vesnik
Distributed byIFEX (US theatrical)
Release dates
  • 1979 (1979) (USSR)
  • 16 October 1987 (1987-10-16) (U.S. limited)
Running time
99 minutes
CountrySoviet Union

The Theme (Russian: Тема, romanizedTema) is a 1979 Soviet comedy film directed by Gleb Panfilov. It tells the story of an egotistical playwright who thinks of himself as an artist, but who allows the system to make him write conformist plays.

The film was heavily censored on its release in 1979. The full version was not released until 1986; this version was awarded the Golden Bear at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival.[1]


Popular playwright Kim Yesenin (Mikhail Ulyanov) with his mistress (Natalya Seleznyova) and friend (Yevgeni Vesnik) arrives in Suzdal on his Volga, in the search of historical themes for his new play, inwardly tormented by his own bias and experiencing a spiritual crisis. In Suzdal, he runs into a family of an old teacher Maria Alexandrovna (Yevgeniya Nechayeva) with venerable, traditional notions of morality and honor. Kim tries to woo the art historian and local museum guide Sasha (Inna Churikova), a pupil of Maria Alexandrovna, but she just plainly imparts to him about how mediocre and immoral his plays are.

Later Kim Yesenin is a secret witness to a farewell conversation of Sasha with her lover, nicknamed as "The Hirsute" (Stanislav Lyubshin). The Hirsute is a frustrated scientist and writer, planning to emigrate to the United States (in the scene of parting with The Hirsute, Sasha shouts: "What are you going to do in this America?!").

At night, Yesenin is trying to depart for Moscow, but changes his mind midway, turns around and crashes his car on the slippery road. In the final scene, severely wounded, he gets to a phone booth and calls Sasha. Without being able to communicate anything sensible to her Yesenin loses consciousness. Lieutenant Sinitsyn (Sergey Nikonenko) who happens to pass by, picks him up onto his motorcycle which has a sidecar attached - and on this frame the picture ends. The subsequent fate of Yesenin is unknown.



  1. ^ "Berlinale: 1987 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2011-02-27.

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