October 1, 2000｜Russia
Professor, Niigata Women's college
A movie named “The Barber of Siberia” has been released in Japan, though a little too late. When the movie was presented to the public in Russia, it caused quite a stir. It must be the first movie that presents such beautiful images and Dolby sound in the history of Russian movie.
It is the end of the nineteen-century in Moscow. The story centers on a love affair between a handsome young cadet, Andrey Tolstoy, and an attractive woman from America, Jane Callahan. The unfolding story also describes the project of forest resource development in Siberia.
We can thoroughly enjoy the various elements of Moscow in imperial times; the atmosphere of the city, the interiors of the houses of nobles, the costumes, the manners and the way of speaking. We could laugh at the wild excitement of the Pancake week, which spreads out on the outdoor set made around the frozen pound at the back of Novodevetchi monastery, without having to explain it.
However, the true message of the movie regards the Russian character; their mysterious and sometimes wild behavior.
Russians are people who have enough sense of humor and broad-mindedness to laugh away their shortcomings into funny short stories, ironically and nonchalantly now and then. On the other hand, it seems that they secretly believe that the “Russian spirit” is not only more human but also rather superior and stronger from a long-range viewpoint than the materialistic American civilization, even though it is sneered at as backward. The movie might be made in order to remind Russians of that. Using a Japanese vogue-word, it could be categorized as “iyashi-kei (healing)”. The appeal of the director Mikhalkov draws even a foreigner like me into the movie suddenly.
If we say that the movie is narcissistic, that would be the end of it, but we must know that the message calls back self-love and confidence to Russians now in the circumstances of this period. One of my young Russian friends wrote me that he watched the movie in a theater and on video over and over again and couldn’t stop crying each time.
We have to feel not only in our head but also in our heart how deeply the ten or more years of revolution has hurt Russians’ heart. Otherwise, we can’t understand why Putin’s “restoration”, which seems to turn back the clock to the police state, is strongly supported by the nation. However, self-love like this seems to include fear that it might be used as a means of psychological control by a person in power.
Anyway, it is worth watching and I strongly recommend it.
[Translated by ERINA]