Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Railway Station for Two

Vokzal dlya dvoikh; Comedy, Russia, 1982; D: Eldar Ryazanov, S: Oleg Basilashvili, Lyudmila Gurchenko, Nikita Mikhalov, Nonna Mordyukova, Mikhail Kononov, Anastasiya Vozenesenskaya

Platon Ryabinin is for a long time serving his prison sentence in some snowy Siberian jail because he took the blame for his wife’s driving over a pedestrian. He gets released to visit his wife and takes a trip to her. In a small and warm town he gets into trouble: when he didn't want to pay his bill in a restaurant because he didn't eat anything, he missed his train for Moscow. He starts an argument with the waitress Vera while her ex-husband "borrows" his documents, and on top of that he gets robbed at a railway station. Vera falls in love with Platon and is fascinated by the way he plays on the piano, but he refuses to get any help in getting released from the jail. But Vera decides to wait for his release.

"A Railway Station for Two" is an immature and stiff mix between comedy, melodrama and hidden critique of Communism, especially in the allegorical plot about a man who goes innocently to serve a jail sentence in a Siberian prison which mirrors the injustice done to many during the Stalin era, thus it is not hard to understand why the film was such a huge success and broke all box office records in Russia - around 36 million people are estimated to have seen it in theaters. Still, the theme was not presented in an universal manner, since elsewhere in the world not that many people were overwhelmed about the humorous, but shaky love story about a pianist Platon, a scapegoat who always bumps into the annoying waitress Vera and gets into lot of trouble. Already the exposition is unconvincing since there Platon doesn't want to pay a ridiculously small price of 1.25 Ruble in a restaurant because he didn't eat anything anyway and thus gets held off and misses his important train just because of his principal, but even later on the story is in retention of real charm. Director Eldar Rjasanow probably tried to make a Russian hybrid of American screwball comedies, but didn't cope well enough with the premise, resulting only in a solid film. Some situations are comical, like the scene where Platon spots the waitress Vera with shampoos in her hands and cynically asks her: "Are you going to put that into the soup, too?", but many situations are simply unfunny and don't have that spark that causes any reaction from the viewer: for instance, in one scene Platon is selling watermelons and improvises by describing them as a "mix between honey and sugar". What's funny about that? Well, that's just it - nothing. The 140 minutes of running time really pass by slow and only rarely does the story really hit the right note, like in the neat moment where Platon decides to play the piano at a party.



Gustavo Valle Rangel said...

Absolutely nonsense when you say this movie is immature... do your homework on Russian cinema and then you'll understand it's a style, not a characteristic. You should change your review, it's shallow.

Marin Mandir said...

You certainly are entitled to your opinion - as am I, as well. I admit that it is somewhat late for me to comment on this, since this review was made over 7 years ago and the film is not that fresh to me anymore. Be it as it may, back then I found it overlong and forced, and until I see it again and/or change my mind, there is no reason to change what I wrote.