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Ivan Kouznetsoff, a Russian engineer, recounts during World War II his stay in England prior to the war working on a new propeller for ice-breaking ships. Naïve about British people and convinced by hearsay that they are shallow and hypocritical, Ivan is both bemused and amused by them. He is blunt in his opinions about Britons and at first this puts off his hosts, including the lovely Ann Tisdall, whose grandfather runs the shipbuilding firm that will make use of Ivan's propeller. The longer Ivan stays, however, the more he comes to understand the humor, warmth, strength, and conviction of the British people, and the more they come to see him as a friend rather than merely a suspicious Russian. As a romantic bond grows between Ivan and Ann, a cultural bond begins to grow as well, particularly as the war begins and Russia is attacked by Germany. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
One has to keep in mind that this British comedy, about the experiences of a Soviet engineer in Britain, was produced at a critical point in the relations between those two nations. Due to the fact that Joseph Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler, the Soviet Union remained neutral after Britain and France went to war against Germany in 1939. The Soviets didn't come into the war as an ally of Britain until the middle of 1941, after Germany invaded Russia. It was not an easiest alliances. Unlike the case of Britain and the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union had almost nothing in common, either politically or linguistically. In fact, British relations with the Soviet Union had been strained ever since the 1917 Revolution.
The Demi-Paradise was produced as an aid to bridging the cultural gap between those two allies, at least from the British point of view. I have no idea whether it was ever shown in Russia, let alone how it would have been perceived by audiences there.
The story concerns a Russian engineer, played by Olivier, who encounters a pair of British seamen ashore in Murmansk during World War II. Typically, the British are complaining about the difficulties they are having among the "foreigners". To their astonishment, Olivier jokingly informs them in English that it is they who are the "foreigners" in Russia, and then proceeds to recount his own experiences as a "foreigner" when he was assigned to do a job in Britain both before, and during, the war.
In addition to being a wartime propaganda film, The Demi-Paradise is full of the sort of self-deprecating humor the British seem to love. While produced in Britain, the script actually was written by a Russian ex-patriot, Anatole de Grunwald. Consequently, one cannot help but feel that the writer brought a lot of his own personal experiences and impressions into the story. The result is very droll, and one cannot help but feel that the protagonist's experiences are probably universal to any stranger in a strange land.
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