Nonna Grishaeva plays the main female role of Ira, a girl who ostensibly is at the bottom of the shopping center hierarchy, putting bar codes on packages and even sweeping a floor. She is cheerful, friendly to everybody & helpful to other shopping center employees, winning them over quickly. She soon has her designs on Vadim ... We find from Nonna Grishaeva's biography that she was born is Odesa and is now a very successful theater actress in Moscow, apart from playing in Russian films. This is clearly a loss to the Ukrainian theater and to Ukrainian film making.
Pyotr Fyodorov plays Vadim, doing also an outstanding job. Like Ira, Vadim is cheerful, friendly and helpful, but with a complicated past. He lives in the shopping center and ventures outside only in a dire emergency; only in a second part of the film we are briefly told why. In his private life he is very thoughtful, actually excessively careful. Trying to win him, Ira has to be very thoughtful herself - which fits her real nature not only the role she has assumed in the shopping center - as well as really soft as far as Vadim is concerned.
Other actors play quite well too. The real names of the actors are not connected to their roles, so here are some names of the roles: the actor playing Vova; the actress playing Lisa who quickly becomes a real friend of Ira & who is great in the scene "let Lisa out"; the actress playing Grandma Nina who actually is Vadim's grandmother by courtesy only; the actor playing Vitaly, a nasty character who in the beginning of the film as the shopping center manager cries "I can fire you all!"; the corrupt but quite funny official performing marriage ceremonies; the boy playing Misha.
The film is played in Russian with English subtitles. There is only one error when Vadim tells Ira "I can show you the cheque" when he means the receipt. Sometimes the translations are ingenious such as "Pushek" into "Fluffy".
This film can be currently seen on the Singapore Airlines flights between San Francisco and Seoul Incheon. Singapore Airlines provide a much larger choice of films for their passengers than most airlines. Flying from San Francisco to Incheon and back, I have see also a Canadian, a Danish and a German film. They were all good, but this film is a clear winner over them.
This film presents a variety of points of view, all plausible, even though some of them contradict some other ones. Even a dog has an opportunity to present his point of view on an issue important to him: with whom he would rather stay ?
Anna Dereszowska has a difficult role as the main female character - precisely because she is not only a nice girl to look at but also a thoughtful person who is trying to make decisions. Jan Wieczorkowski as Marek is very good too, and also he faces difficult decisions.
Our DVD has the sound track mostly in Polish, there are English subtitles. Fantasy comedies aside, considering comedies coming out of Poland in recent years, this is one of my two favorites. The other one is "Darling, don't lie".
For some reason the ratings of this film on IMDb are not high. One wonders why. Those who submitted their ratings are used to horrors from Hollywood and are disappointed that there are no massacred dead bodies ? The last question is of course a speculation on my part.
Inge carries this fairy tale atmosphere with her, not a small feat. Aneta Todorczuk in the role of Inge has to rely on her histrionic abilities other than her voice for a large part of the film. Jan Wieczorkowski whom we have seen as an organist in a series of films about a small town in north-eastern Poland not far from the border with Belarus has here the main male role - and he deserves it. We also see other very good actors: Magdalena Schejbal who played so well as Magda in "Darling, don't lie", Maria Gladkowska who was the unforgettable Dorota in "Emergency exit", Jan Frycz and Michal Lesien. Aneta Todorczuk is a new face (for this reviewer) as is Anna Chylarecka as the teenager Ania. Whenever she shows up, Ania nearly steals the show. Overall, we hope Ewa Pytka will direct more films.
The actors are wonderful. Maja Ostaszewska as Agata has a very difficult role - and she is convincing in all situations and at all times. Marek Bukowski as Slawek is very good too, as is Danuta Stenka, the same applies of course to Andrzej Seweryn - almost to them all.
A previous reviewer questions why a prosecutor gets involved in the crime investigation from the start - instead of the usual waiting for the police to provide enough evidence to charge somebody with the crime. However, here Agata has several strong motives to get involved early: the fact that this is her first criminal case after working in the white collar economic crime office; baffling circumstances of the case; the fact that she is the daughter of a law professor; and the fact that her law school classmate Slawek is the police inspector in charge of the case.
Now that we have seen Part 2, I can comment on it: on people, devices, locations and situations.
There are actors known before from Part 1: Barbara Brylska as Nadya; Andrei Myagkov as Zhenya; Yuriy Yakovlev as Ippolit; Aleksandr Shirvindt as Pasha (mostly Pavlik in Part 1); Aleksandr Belyavskiy as Sasha; as well as Valentina Talyzina as Valya. It was so good to see them again ! Now we also have Elizaveta Boyarskaya as Nadya Number 2, the daughter of the original Nadya; Konstantin Khabenskiy as Kostya Lukashin son of Zhenya; Sergey Bezrukov as Irakliy (note a carefully chosen name, similar to Ippolit). There are naturally more new faces, including Igor Savochkin as Kolya the Border Guard; he makes his unique contributions – largely because most of the time he is as confused as a hungry baby in a topless bar. While Nadya Number 1 now wears large glasses, her smile is the same as before. While Zhenya now has less hair, his smile is also the same as before.
As for devices, frequent use of cell phones makes this means of communication look nearly ridiculous. An original comic approach, while in more and more locations around the world there are limitations on the use of cell phones, including driving.
Obviously Apartment # 12 in House # 25 on the Third Constructors Street plays its role again, as does the elevator there. We also see again the train station from which trains go to Moscow as well as two airports. This helps the impression of continuity – as does music repeated from the first film (except for the song at the end which is new).
The situations are sometimes similar as before, but with interesting twists. It is not easy now to send Zhenya to St. Petersburg; this becomes a clever two parts operation executed by Sasha and Pasha. Zhenya starts to figure things out when Pasha phones to reserve "another" plane ticket. There are also new situations – well connected to Part 1. Nadya Number 2 is asked by Grandfather Frost to play his Snow Girl. She gets instant advice not to agree. However, in a wonderful twist of action, Nadya says: when I was five years old, I had to do things I hated; when I was 10 years old, it was the same; enough is enough; I agree. When one knows that Ippolit is her father and one knows his character from Part 1, the fact that he has been a despotic father is anything but surprising. Thus, events in Part 2 are admirably rooted in Part 1.
One sympathizes so much with Kostya - who can hardly get a moment alone with younger Nadya. One admires his ingenuity in creating opportunities to talk to Nadya. When Grandfather Frost walks into Nadya's apartment, one wishes that inside the costume covering largely the face should be Kostya. One hears later an explanation of the original Snow Girl: he agreed to take over and complete the Grandfather Frost route but on the condition that he will have his own Snow Girl. Incidentally, I recently learned something about Grandfather Frost: Santa Claus was strictly forbidden for a number of years in the Soviet Union – until Stalin found the tradition too strong and allowed him but renamed Grandfather Frost and wearing blue instead of red. The vote of five children on who should marry the Princess is new and fresh - in spite of centuries of fairy tales.
We have seen recently a US movie called "Fast Five", with virtually nothing left to imagination and much noise most of the time. Here both Part 1 and Part 2 have two levels; the amusing or moving surface level, but also a deeper level where the viewer has much food for thought. This is one more common feature of both films. Timur Bekmambetov as the director, Emil Braginskiy as the story writer – together with Eldar Ryazanov himself – have much to be proud of. One needs to say this: the richness of Part 1 has much helped the creators of Part 2 to make such a good film.
Let me provide at least an example of two levels in this film. Kostya asks: "are we in Moscow or in St. Petersburg ?". Younger Nadya provides a charming – but also a profound – response: Does it matter ?".
The actors are very good. Those playing the police chief and the Catholic priest we have seen before, they are as good as before, although before the first film in this series their experience was limited to providing voices in a marionette theater in Bialystok. The girl in the bank who fights off her admirers with "I am Orthodox" clearly has shining talent. The actor playing Stasio back-home-after-20-years-in-the US is a good addition, not seen in previous films. Emilian Kaminski who made his strong appearance in the second film as Jerzy Bocian is very good here also. In spite of these other good actors, in my opinion the show is stolen by Agnieszka Kotlarska who plays the policewoman Marina Chmiel. She provides feel- good moments, as in the scene when she is asked where her unusual first name comes from; she replies: "My parents liked a song that begins with that name". Actually, her role is quite difficult. Marina has a black belt in karate & functions well in combat-like situations. However, in ordinary situations she is quite shy, with men in particular. Talking to men, she sometimes falls into the area comfortable to her, like in the street scene in which she is telling the young policeman Marian about martial arts. When that topic of conversation is not possible, her shyness seems to overwhelm her; wonderfully played. Her sudden feeling for Stasio - after she has rescued him from thugs - is received by the viewer as quite natural & fits well with her character.
Our DVD has voices in Polish with subtitles in English and French.
Actors in this film are great. Anna Przybylska carries well a difficult role. Edward Lubaszenko as Mirka's grandfather makes you smile every time, even if he says only a few words. Krzysztof Kowalewski as a cabinet minister shows many different faces. Cezary Pazura made famous by the two "Killer" movies is good too. Olaf Lubaszenko has created one more good movie.
Recent German films have sound tracks in at least four languages. The director of "Darling, don't lie" Piotr Weresniak did a good job. The producer Piotr Weresniak turned out to be a moron. On our DVD there is no sound track in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and/or German. Even English subtitles are missing. Thus, in Brazil alone 200 millions people will not see this film - and so among others will not see views of night Cracow taken by the cinematographer Piotr Weresniak.
There are many enjoyable details one needs to pay attention to, some of them without words. When Morand is arrested, there is a huge TV set in his cell. When crooked politicians supporting him are also arrested one after another, one sees how his prison cell looses gradually its expensive look and contents, and in the end only a small portable radio remains.
The opening scene with its suspense, literally and figuratively, seems like taken out of silly Hollywood suspense movies, but when that scene returns much later even that moment (the only one I did not like) acquires a logical sense. The authors play well, as Kelly from Arizona points out. Three dogs and one cat play well too; how this was achieved is hard to figure out if you are not an animal trainer.
Views of the French Riviera and of some well known places in Marseilles are an added bonus - and somehow make the antics of the heroes even more believable.
Soviet is the background, including the cartoon which precedes the appearance of humans: a man with a tube kills any architect originality, even so innocent as balconies. As a consequence, the same buildings are put up in Artica as well in a southern desert before surprised camels. The Soviet reality is the basis of the plot with identical buildings in different cities. Also the New Year tree rather that the Christmas tree is Soviet. However, as the story unfolds, the Soviet reality recedes into little visible background. An exception is a line in one of the songs: if you do not have a dog, your neighbor cannot poison your dog.
Russian are the beautiful poems which are made into songs. There are also some views of Leningrad, but actually only a few, with the St. Isaac Basilica shown several times from different sides.
The cast and the technical crew are largely Russian, but not only. Obviously Armenian, Georgian and Jewish names are listed. The actress playing Nadya has been imported from Central Europe; Barbara Brylska is a Polish actress, well known also from a number of other movies made in Poland as well as in other countries.
The appeal of the film is truly universal ! This is the reason why viewers from countries so disparate as Latvia, Ukraine and China like this film so much (not to mention Texans). The love-jealousy quadrangle, two mothers, friends of Zhenya and colleagues of Nadya could have lived in many countries around the world. Even the story of the same address could have happened for instance in Germany where practically every city and town has Bahnhofstrasse and Poststrasse.
Finally, the atmosphere of this film is unique - a word which very rarely can be used discussing films. We have seen other films directed by Eldar Ryazanov, all of them good, but none comparable to this one. All that takes place in the film is plausible, it could have happened in reality. At the same time, there is the feeling of poetic, unreal and sublime. These two basically opposed reactions to the film coexist somehow in the viewer; this simply does not happen in movies, films directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski excepted. Irony of the Fate is a truly wonderful film, alive 30 years after being created; it will enchant future generations as well.
Ira Laczina received a prize for her role as Marusia at the Gdynia Film Festival.