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Shumnyy den' is based on a play by the popular Soviet writer Viktor Rozov, co-directed by a truly great theatrical director - Anatoly Efros and most of the parts are played by actors from Moscow's leading theaters. Such a start might make certain prospective viewers suspicious, but they need not worry: due to the professionalism of all participants, the resulting slightly theatrical ambiance of the picture does not irritate in any way. On the contrary, it makes one think of such masterpieces as Marie-Octobre, which keep you on the edge of your seat till the last minute, even in limited settings.
The main hero, played superbly by the young Oleg Tabakov, is an enthusiastic, kind-hearted and somewhat confused schoolboy with a love for goldfish. He lives with his family: mother, older sister and brother in a typically intelligent Muscovite apartment on the Arbat. But their serene lifestyle is somewhat disturbed by the behavior of his older brother's wife - the attractive young lady is obsessed with purchasing things. Technically, she is the main "villain" of the plot line, in the end forcing her husband to move away from his family who, as she puts it, are mean to her, but in fact she is just a personification of a more general vice: materialism. There are other characters in the picture who share this trait: the boy's friend, who steals money from his father (the father being a persona completely devoid of anything human), his sister's wealthy beau, whom she considers marrying in spite of a huge age difference and his receding hairline problem, neighbors selling under-the-counter fabric and so on. Having accidentally spilled ink on his sister-in-law's favorite new desk, Tabakov's hero is faced with her hysteria, during which she throws a jar with his favorite goldfish out of the window. The movie reaches its climax as the young man smashes down all her new furniture with his father's saber, shouting that these are just objects, and no object is worth a life.
Interestingly enough, the rather moralizing plot is made into a very moving and honest film. Starting from the opening scene, in which we are shown a clean, light and optimistic early morning Moscow (a beautiful Khrushev Thaw-era tradition), every minute of Shumnyy den' is enjoyable, making the movie a pure pleasure to watch again and again.
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