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The Czar Wants to Sleep (1934)
"Poruchik Kizhe" (original title)

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A sarcastic comedy about the Russian-Soviet bureaucracy, based on the eponymous novella by Yuri Tynyanov. Set in the reign of Emperor Paul I. A copying error by a military scribe turns the ... See full summary »


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Title: The Czar Wants to Sleep (1934)

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Cast overview:
Mikhail Yanshin ...
Tsar Pavel I
Boris Gorin-Goryainov ...
Count von Pahlen
Nina Shaternikova ...
Princess Gagarina
Sofiya Magarill ...
Princess Gagarina's companion
Erast Garin ...
Mikhail Rostovtsev ...
Fortress commandant


A sarcastic comedy about the Russian-Soviet bureaucracy, based on the eponymous novella by Yuri Tynyanov. Set in the reign of Emperor Paul I. A copying error by a military scribe turns the Russian words for "the lieutenants, however" into what looks like "lieutenant Kizhe". The Tsar reads the error, and wants to meet this (non-existent) Lieutenant Kizhe. His courtiers are at first too frightened to contradict the Tsar, but then the fiction turns out to be all too convenient for them. So Lieutenant Kizhe gets himself exiled to Siberia, recalled from exile, promoted, and married. He dies and receives a state funeral. In many ways, he is the most charming and lovable character in the film, even though he remains throughout the film a "confidential person, without a shape". Written by Steve Shelokhonov, rev. by Skripach

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

9 December 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Czar Wants to Sleep  »

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Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Though the film is little known today, the five-movement suite Prokofiev arranged from his music for it (usually called "Lieutenant Kijé Suite") has become a standard classical concert piece and has been recorded often. See more »


In a scene after 'Colonel Kizhe' returns from Siberia, in one shot his escort is standing with a curtain on his left and in the next he holds the curtain in his right hand obscuring the left side of his body. See more »


Palen: [subtitled version] The prisoner is confidential, and has no shape.
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Referenced in Children of the Revolution (1996) See more »


Lieutenant Kije
Sergei Prokofiev
See more »

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User Reviews

Tedious farce
3 October 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a movie with a point to make. That point being that the Czar and everyone of his supporters and soldiers was a laughable jerk. It's an understandable point to want to make, and farce is broad by nature, but this movie seems like a sort of inside joke, something that might be very funny to angry Russians still bitter about their treatment under the Czar, but a failure in terms of comedy that is relatable to those for whom the Czar is not such a big deal.

The score by Prokovieff is, of course, brilliant. And the basic idea is really cute. But the movie is forced and not funny at all. Sometimes a hint of subtlety is more powerful than nothing but broad strokes.

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