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The Czar Wants to Sleep (1934)

Poruchik Kizhe (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama | 9 December 1934 (USA)
A sarcastic comedy about the Imperial Russian 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 ... See full summary »


Yuri Tynyanov




Credited cast:
Mikhail Yanshin ... Tsar Pavel I
Boris Gorin-Goryainov ... Count von Pahlen
Nina Shaternikova ... Princess Gagarina
Sofiya Magarill ... Princess Gagarina's companion
Erast Garin ... Adjutant
Mikhail Rostovtsev ... Fortress commandant
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Konstantin Gibshman Konstantin Gibshman ... Court doctor
Vladimir Lepko ... Count Kutaisov, zar's barber


A sarcastic comedy about the Imperial Russian 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


Not Rated | See all certifications »



Soviet Union



Release Date:

9 December 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Czar Wants to Sleep See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Belgoskino See more »
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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.
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Referenced in Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf (1958) See more »


Lieutenant Kije
Sergei Prokofiev
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User Reviews

A Must See
16 December 2018 | by rewolfsonlawSee all my reviews

Made in 1934, this brilliant piece of filmaking combines elements of Expressionism, Dada, and Surrealism with directorial style reminiscent of Cocteau, Renoir, Leger and Bunuel. Add the music by Prokofiev and it transcends cinematic art. I've followed, sought and studied film for over four decades. This is a seminal work of early cinema with superior subtitling. An absolute must see for those who love the art.

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