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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 ...
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


Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

9 December 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Czar Wants to Sleep  »

Company Credits

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 »


The document with the crucial slip of the pen as corrected by Tsar Paul I is clearly not the same as the one written by the army scribe in the previous scene. In the first version, the second (mistaken) letter K is clearly larger than the first. In the version corrected by the Tsar, they are the same size. (Though the subtitles have the Tsar capitalizing the second K, what he is actually doing is adding a letter between the two two Ks - the Russian "hard sign" required at the end of many words in the pre-revolutionary spelling system. The effect is the same: to create a fictional Lieutenant Kizhe.) See more »


Palen: [subtitled version] The prisoner is confidential, and has no shape.
See more »


Referenced in Love and Death (1975) See more »


Lieutenant Kije
Sergei Prokofiev
See more »

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User Reviews

Make this film available!
1 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The fact that this film was shown at London's Barbican suggests to me that the print must have been acceptable enough for such a showing. Now the question is, Why isn't this long lost and important film available in DVD (or even VHS)? A large number of persons in Europe and the USA have for many years hoped to see this film, if for no other reason than the wonderful music written for it by Sergei Prokofiev. What does one have to do to get such a wonderful production as this available for a wider public, not just patrons to the Barbican at London? Having been a devoted listener to Prokofiev's music for many years and aware of this film, PLEASE, someone 'out there' do the right thing and bring it out as a DVD.

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